Resort still 'off-piste paradise' despite prince avalanche tragedy

The upmarket Austrian ski resort where Dutch Prince Johan Friso was left brain-damaged by an avalanche will continue to market itself as an "off-piste Eldorado," the region's tourism chief said Saturday.

"You can't make a whole mountain off limits ... We set great store by being an off-piste Eldorado," Hermann Fercher, tourist board head in the westernmost Austrian state of Vorarlberg, told local radio.

He added that authorities "make a point of telling people to be well prepared (for avalanches), with beepers and airbags, so that they have everything in case something happens and in order to have the best chance of survival."

The 43-year-old prince was skiing off-piste in the Lech resort with a friend when the avalanche struck. At the time the avalanche alert level was at the second highest, posing a particular risk away from the prepared ski slopes.

The father-of-two, the second son of Queen Beatrix, might never regain consciousness after being starved of oxygen for 25 minutes under an avalanche, doctors in Innsbruck where he is being treated said Friday.

Austrian media reports Saturday meanwhile said that a 13-year-old girl died earlier this week after being caught in a minor avalanche while playing with friends in a meadow in the village of Seiz in central Austria.

The girl, named only as Julia, was buried under only a metre and a half (five feet) of snow, and just for five minutes, but this was enough for her to suffer massive brain damage and she died on Tuesday.

"We have lost our sunshine," the Kurier daily quoted her grandmother as saying.