Swiss emergency crews have launched a search operation after an avalanche crashed through a hotel restaurant while guests were eating.
A 1,000ft wall of snow thundered into Hotel Säntis in Schwägalp in northeastern Switzerland, burying 25 cars and leaving three people injured.
At least one person had to be dug out of the snow when the avalanche struck at about 4.30pm yesterday, an eyewitness said.
Dozens have been evacuated from the 4,265ft altitude skiing resort and pictures show a bus buried in snow near what appears to be an overturned car.
While no hotel guests, skiers or hikers were reported missing, rescue teams have been conducting searches in the avalanche area, which lies at the foot of Säntis mountain – the highest peak in eastern Switzerland's Alpstein massif.
Bitter weather conditions have caused havoc across Europe and left at least 17 dead - but while conditions are calmer today, forecasters have warned it will keep snowing until the middle of next week.
A hotel guest told the Tagblatt newspaper he looked outside and saw snow swirling all around - initially believing snow had fallen off the roof. Fortunately only a few people were in the dining area at the time.
But the guest added: 'Then there was a massive noise and a load of snow came in the back of the restaurant.'
Eastern Switzerland and the northern canton Graubünden have suffered from a huge dump of snow over recent days with nearly a metre falling in 72 hours. A further metre of snow is expected to fall in the Hundwil area on Sunday.
According to local media, the avalanche was 300 meters (984ft) wide and up to 5 meters (16.4ft) high. A 76-strong mountain rescue team as well as two search dogs are at the scene.
Meanwhile, in Germany, troops have moved in to rescue people trapped in their homes after heavy snowfall amid warnings Europe's whiteout will last until at least the middle of next week.
Soldiers used tracked support vehicles to battle through drifts in the town of Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps close to the Austrian border.
They were also seen shovelling snow from the tops of buildings as part of their emergency response to the huge downfalls.
Today officials declared a state of emergency in a fourth southern Bavarian district - Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen.
Airlines cancelled around 120 flights at Frankfurt Airport and 90 at Munich Airport on Friday because of concerns about snow, German news agency DPA reported.
In the eastern German city of Chemnitz, all planned burials at the municipal cemetery through until Monday have been called off because of the snow.
Meanwhile in Austria on Wednesday, Australian teenager Max Meyer was killed in an avalanche in St Anton am Arlberg as he was skiing with his family.
His helpless family watched as the 16-year-old Sydney International Grammar School student was buried under a mountain of snow.
The helpless family of an Australian teenager watched in horror as he was buried under a mountain of snow in a deadly avalanche in the Austrian alps.
The family, who were all experienced skiers, had became stuck in 'rough, untracked and very steep terrain' at about 4.40pm local time. They made an emergency call, but were soon hit by an avalanche as they waited for rescuers to arrive. Max and his mother were covered with snow but the 55-year-old was able to free herself.
In neighbouring Slovakia, the mountain rescue service said a 37-year-old man was killed by an avalanche in the Mala Fatra mountains.
A seven-year-old child was killed in Aying, near Munich, by a falling tree which was reportedly weighed down by snow.
That brought to at least 17 the number of weather-related deaths reported in Europe over the past week.
Several railway lines in the Alps were closed because of the snow, lorries and cars got stuck for hours on a highway in south-western Germany and schools were closed in parts of Bavaria.
Roads into several places were closed although Galtuer in western Austria, where a massive avalanche in 1999 killed 31 people, was reachable again on Thursday after being cut off.
The Austrian minister responsible for tourism, Elisabeth Koestinger, said that 'in most skiing areas, there is no reason for concern at present if people keep to the rules and don't leave the secured slopes'.
Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported that the weather was expected to calm on Friday but further heavy snow could be expected on Sunday.
In the Czech Republic, around 9,000 households were without electricity on Thursday after heavy snow in regions bordering Germany and Austria.
On Norway's Arctic Svalbard islands, more than 100 people were evacuated as a precaution because of a storm and the risk of avalanches. The Svalbard archipelago is 500 miles north of Norway's mainland.
Norwegian news agency NTB said 29 dwellings at the foot of the Sukkertoppen mountain were evacuated, and a school, kindergartens, a sports facility and public library closed. In the north of mainland Norway, authorities warned of a risk of avalanches.
The Swedish Meteorological Institute on Thursday sent out warnings for a storm and heavy snowfalls over northern Sweden.
Meanwhile, heavy snowfall this week in the Balkans has closed down schools, left some remote villages cut off and disrupted traffic and power supplies in many areas in the region.
Serbia's state TV said Friday that six municipalities in the southwest of the country have introduced emergency measures, warning of snow piling up on the roads and sealing off mountain villages.
Most schools there have closed down and emergency crews have distributed supplies to some residents. Strong winds have created occasional snowdrifts, further complicating the situation.
In neighboring Montenegro, three towns on the Adriatic coast remained without electricity on Friday after a snowstorm on Thursday hit a key power distribution line.
Meteorologist Dragan Buric said the first 10 days of January have been among the coldest in the country in decades.
'We have snow in January the capital city (Podgorica) for the first time in nine years,' Buric told Montenegrin state TV.
In the central Bosnian municipality of Kladanj, snow has disrupted power supplies and cut phone lines. Zijad Vejzovic, from the local civil protection agency, said authorities have declared an emergency.
'Because of heavy snow, in some parts over 1 meter-high, some of the roads have been blocked,' he explained. 'We need more machines. We have run out of resources and money.'