Three Italians have been killed after they were hit by an avalanche in an area known as Death Valley in the Swiss Alps, police say.
In a statement, police in the canton of Valais said two women and one man died in the accident near the Grand Saint-Bernard peak, close to the Italian border.
One man remained in a serious condition and another man was slightly injured, according to police.
The group were skiing cross-country when a massive sheet of snow, measuring 80 metres across and up to 300 metres long, dislodged and swept them away.
The accident happened shortly after 1:00pm (local time) at an altitude of around 2,300 metres.
Weather conditions and thick fog complicated the rescue operation, police said.
Rescue helicopters were forced to land away from the avalanche site, and rescuers had to cover a greater distance on foot, police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet said.
He said about 30 rescue workers and several helicopters took part in the operation.
They managed to locate the skiers, who were all carrying avalanche victim detectors. Some were buried under as much as 2.5 metres of snow.
Avalanches are taking a heavy toll in the Swiss Alps this winter season, killing at least 24 people, including Saturday’s deaths, according to a count by Swiss news agency ATS.