A British skier who got lost on an Italian mountain was rescued after he sent a text message to his mother - 900 miles away in England.

Alexander Smith, 36, was skiing off-piste with friends when he became separated from the group and fell from a small ledge.

Although not badly hurt, he was unable to continue downhill and could not contact his friends, who at first failed to realise he was missing, on their mobiles.

So instead, the Cambridge graduate sent a text message to his mother in England from 5,000ft up the Ornella mountain range at Arabba, near Belluno, in the Italian Dolomites.

The message was received on Saturday by mother Carol back in Matlock, Derbyshire, where she was visiting friends, and she immediately alerted police in Italy.

Carol, who lives in Buckinghamshire, was shocked to read the message ''I'm in difficulty quick call police in Arabba.''

While friends logged on to the Internet to find out the names of hotels in the area, Carol called directory inquiries and spoke to an operator who had been skiing in the area last year.

He gave her the number for the police in Belluno and she explained the situation to an officer who sent a rescue party to find the skier.

Police managed to raise Alexander, from Kennington, south London, on his mobile phone and told him to stay where he was as he was walking straight for the edge of the mountain.

Eventually, after being lost for more than six hours and with temperatures plunging to minus 10C, Alexander was rescued and returned to his hotel.

Carol said yesterday: ''You can imagine my horror when I got his text message. I didn't even know he had gone skiing."