Avalanches in Austria have left eight people dead in recent days with the avalanche alert level at four on a scale of five after several days of intense snowfall and wind.

Austrian police have said that five people had been killed in avalanches in the west of the country, after three deaths were reported yesterday despite pleas for caution on ski slopes.

The eight deaths came as resorts are filled during the February school holidays in Vienna.

The body of a 59-year-old man buried while helping the snow removal effort in his tractor was recovered, police in Austria's western Tyrol region said. Two skiers aged 29 and 33, including a guide, who were carried off-piste yesterday morning were found dead in Sankt Anton am Arlberg.

A 62-year-old man, who had not returned after cross-country skiing around the summit of Hohe Aifner, was recovered by rescuers and could not be revived, a police spokesman told AFP.

The authorities declined to give information on the nationality of the four victims recovered today.

Yesterday, a 17-year-old New Zealander who was skiing off-piste, a German man in his 50s and a 32-year-old Chinese man, also said to be skiing outside of the designated routes, were found dead.

Thirty avalanches were reported yesterday in Tyrol alone, eleven of which involved missing people, with the numerous rescue operations hampered by poor visibility and bad weather conditions.

Despite the alert and official warnings, many holidaymakers have ventured off the marked slopes, authorities said. It comes after a poor start to the ski season because of the lack of snow at low and medium altitudes.

Avalanches have killed around 20 people annually in recent years in Austria, a top winter sports destination.

In Tyrol and the neighbouring region of Vorarlberg, authorities again warned that avalanche risks were high due to wind and snowfall.