Australian family found safe at Japan’s Nozawa Onsen after spending night in mountain snow cave

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 2:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 10:46pm

An Australian family who went missing at a Japanese ski resort have been rescued after sending out a social media SOS, and spending a chilly night in a snow cave, police and reports said Tuesday.

The unnamed mother and her three sons were found on the mountain shortly after 9am local time on Tuesday, a police spokesman said.

“We understand they were found uninjured,” the spokesman added.

The search was on for the foursome - a mother in her fifties, two adult sons, and a younger boy - after they failed to return from skiing on Monday evening at Nozawa Onsen in Nagano prefecture, some 200 kilometres north of Tokyo.

The resort, known for deep powder snow and hot springs, is particularly popular with Australian skiers and snowboarders.

“Good news out of Nozawa Onsen! The missing family has just been found up the top of the mountain!” a local tour company said on its Facebook page Tuesday.

“Have just gotten off the phone with the head of Nozawa Ski Patrol and all members are fine. Everyone is very relieved to hear,” Nozawa Holidays said.

“It would appear that they had ventured outside the resort boundary yesterday afternoon off the back of Mt Kenashi which is the highest peak at Nozawa Onsen at 1650m,” the company said in another update on its website.

“They probably skied along a ridge and then headed down the south face. No doubt lost and concerned as night closed in.”

Japanese reports said the group sent a message through social media to let friends and relatives know they were lost and needed help.

The group reportedly dug a hole in the snow to keep warm as the mercury dropped well below zero.

Heavy snowfall have hit some parts of Japan in the past few days and the country’s weather agency warned about snowstorms and heavy accumulation in coastal areas including mountainous Nagano.