Skiers Caught in Avalanche, 2 Unconscious in Nagano Pref.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Nagano prefectural police headquarters

OTARI, Nagano — Skiers were caught in an avalanche on the Tengu plateau of Mt. Hakuba Norikura in the village of Otari, Nagano Prefecture, on Sunday afternoon, according to police.

They are believed to have been on an unmaintained slope outside the designated area in what is known as off-piste or backcountry skiing.

According to the Omachi Police Station, a total of 13 people, three groups of foreigners including Americans and Canadians, are believed to be skiing at the scene. Among them, two men were left unconscious at the scene; the other eleven skiers descended Sunday night to the base of a nearby ski slope, where one man was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The search for the two men left at the site will begin Monday morning due to bad weather and other conditions.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, heavy snow fell in the area from Friday to Saturday, and an avalanche warning was issued. This was still in effect at the time of the accident.

The police received an emergency call at about 2:30 p.m. saying the skiers might have been caught in an avalanche.