Two woman skiers have died in an avalanche at the Roza Khutor resort at Sochi in Russia, one day after it was opened to the general public.
A spokesman for the Roza Khutor resort said six skiers were on the mid-section of the Labirint run when they were hit by the huge wall of snow. The two women were dug out but could not be saved. The other four skiers were apparently uninjured. Other sources said that a total of three people died in the avalanche but this could not be verified.
Roza Khutor was the location for the skiing at the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games earlier this year. It only reopened to the general public 24 hours before the avalanche. The resort sent its condolences to the family of those affected and said it was attempting to determine the cause.
The resort has gone to great lengths to protect skiers from the menace of avalanches – vast walls of snow which can sweep downhill at great speed, destroying all in their path. At Sochi these measures included wide metal pipes which were pushed into the hillside and a team of avalanche experts.
Sochi's potential risk as a place where avalanches occur was noted in a 2012 report assessing the resort's suitability as a venue for the Winter Olympics.
The report stated: "Rosa Khutor is a challenging zone with many large and steep slopes. This terrain is near the Black Sea and receives extreme precipitation that can lead to large and dangerous avalanche cycles."