Two ski resort workers have been killed in Morillon in the French Alps while using explosives to spark an avalanche to keep the slopes safe for skiers.
Their deaths came as three German cross-country skiers died and a fourth was reported missing following an avalanche in western Austria on Saturday evening.
The incident in Morillon occurred at 8.30am local time yesterday as the workers were preparing the explosives at a height of 1,800 metres in the family resort in the Haut-Giffre valley.
Police confirmed they were killed by the explosion.
The workers had been sent out to the Lanches sector of the resort before the ski slopes were opened to the public, after a night of heavy snowfall. Skiers had been warned that the risk of avalanche was at four on a scale of one to five.
Setting off explosives, often dynamite, is a common technique used in ski resorts to spark avalanches that might otherwise take place when slopes are packed with skiers.
"The specialist pisteurs who are involved in securing the trails and roads from avalanches with explosive devices go through extensive training," said Henry Schniewind, from skiing advice website Henry's Avalanche Talk.
"Their job involves hazards from avalanche danger that most of us are aware of; the danger from explosives seems less apparent. Today's tragedy is a reminder to us all about how brave these men and women are."
The mountain gendarme unit from Chamonix is investigating the deaths and has sent officers to the scene.
The two accidents brought to at least 26 the number of weather-related deaths reported in parts of Europe this month.
In Austria, the wife of one of the German skiers reported them missing on Saturday. The bodies of the men, aged 57, 36 and 32, were recovered later that evening near the ski resort of Lech.
Police in Vorarlberg, Austria's westernmost province, said they had to call off the search for another missing German skier in the group (28) because of heavy snow and the risk of avalanches.