Four cross-country skiers die in French Alps avalanches

EMONET GRENOBLE, France (AFP) - Four cross-country skiers died in avalanches in the French Alps over the weekend, officials said as they warned that snow melting under springtime sun was creating a heightened danger.

A 60-year-old man died on Saturday in the Haut-Alpes region. The three others - part of a group of five Frenchmen being guided up the Vanoise Mountain - died on Sunday in the Savoie region. Their companion and their guide survived and were hospitalised.

A rescue police commander, Mr David Petitjean, said the avalanche on Sunday happened in the morning, so it probably was not the result of the sun warming the surface snow.

However, the authorities in the Alps said there was a "strong" risk of avalanches in the wider area because of generally warmer weather.

A total of 32 people died during France's 2012-2013 ski season, according to the National Association for Snow and Avalanche Research.