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Search For Missing Skier Underway After Avalanche

31/03/2013 03:33 BST | Updated 30/05/2013 10:12 BST

A search is under way for one person believed to have been caught up in an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands.

Northern Constabulary said emergency services were alerted to the avalanche, which occurred close to the Glencoe Ski Centre, just after 1pm.

Around 30 people are involved in the search operation in an "off-piste" skiing area in the Etive Glades, Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team said.

It also includes police, a helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth and Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team.

Glencoe Mountain Resort posted on its Facebook page: "(We) regret to say that an experienced off-piste skier skiing out with the ski area was caught in a major avalanche this afternoon.

"Mountain rescue teams and Glencoe Ski patrol have been on site for the last four hours."

Off-piste skiing, also referred to as "back country" skiing, involves the use of unofficial slopes which are not patrolled or maintained.

A forecast on the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service website yesterday placed Glencoe at "considerable risk" of an avalanche.

"The snowpack is moderately to poorly bonded on many steep slopes," it said.

"Triggering is possible, even from low additional loads, particularly on the indicated steep slopes. In some cases medium-sized, in isolated cases large-sized, natural avalanches are possible."

Mark Fulton, 25, from Gourock, Inverclyde, who was skiing all day with his family on the slopes at the Glencoe Ski Centre, said he saw the rescue mission unfolding.

"I was up there from about 10am and at lunchtime we went in to get something to eat at the cafe and we saw an emergency helicopter hovering about," he said.

"It looked as though it was coming in to land near the bottom of the hill. When we were leaving later I saw police and mountain rescue vans all gathered as well.

"I didn't actually know there had been an avalanche until I was driving home and heard it on the radio.

"It's just not something you think about when you're going out skiing, you never think something like that will happen to you - it's like when you get on a plane, you don't think it's going to crash.

"I just hope the person is found safe and well."