The rise in temperatures this week coupled with the heavy winter snowfall have led to some spectacular avalanches in the French Alps. This afternoon a large search and rescue operation was in place to find three people buried at the Col de Sarenne near l'Alpe d'Huez.
The avalanche occurred at 16h40 on the col de Sarenne road that links the ski resort of l'Alpe d'Huez with Clavans. The road, snow covered and closed to traffic, with walkers told not to go beyond the Pierre Ronde. The Sarenne black run has also been closed after midday.
The alert was given by the owner of the Refuge de Sarenne. Three of his staff who were on a quadbike had been hit by a large slide. At the resort Christian Reverbel the director of ski runs organized rescue teams, pisteurs, instructors, guides and rescue dogs, in total 50 people were rushed to the scene aided by the mountain police.
A probe line started where a hand was visible, the first victim was dug out then, 20 minutes later, two more victims. Found under 2 meters of snow. Reverbel says it is a "miracle and a tribute to the rescue team's skill, everyone is happy tonight we've saved them". All three victims were taken to hospital at Grenoble, one with internal bleeding in their leg. The others were merely shocked and shaken.
Climbers in nearby St Christophe managed to film this spectacular avalanche that blocked the Venosc river. Spring avalanches have a reputation for being slow moving but this monster would have taken out anything that got in its way. A skier was injured in the sector on Sunday by a wet snow slide.
There have been numerous other slides in the region. The D909 between la Clusaz and la Giettaz was closed by a slide this morning as was the busy Tignes and Val d'Isere road. At les Arcs the road was closed for prevention work.
On Tuesday the access road to the village of Névache were closed for avalanche control. There was a 100% success rate for the 7 avalanches that were triggered by explosives. Normally the result is half that figure. An indication of the lack of stability of the spring snow in the area.
On the col de Montgenèvre the Grand Réal avalanche almost touched the road which leads to Italy. In 1974 and again in 1978 it cut the road. On Tuesday night an avalanche covered the road 200 meters from the col de Vars. The slide was 20 meters wide and 1.50 meters deep. The col had been closed on Monday due to the risk of avalanches. The slide was checked by pisteurs as a precaution as was another slide at the Grand-Vallon between Vars and Risoul.
On Tuesay a 16 year old was buried by a roof avalanche while walking near to a chalet on a snowshoe tour in the bois des Frêtes above Confins in the Haute-Savoie. The victim was buried under 150cm of snow. The victim was found in a state of respiratory arrest. Revived at the scene he was taken to hospital in Annecy by helicopter.
The avalanche risk continues to be 3 (Considerable) moving to 4 (High) on a scale of 5 later in the morning across the Alps with the exception of Mont Blanc above 3000 meters where the risk is a notch lower due to cooler temperatures.
On Friday (12th April) around midi an avalanche started on the glacier de Taconnaz in the Chamonix valley. The debris filled the avalanche protection which protects the route and houses below. This video gives an idea of the scale of the slide.