On the 9th of December 2010 and independent snowboard instructor from Val d‘Isère and one of his clients, a surgeon from Aix-en-Provence were caught by an avalanche in the “couloir des pisteurs” on the north face of the Charvet. The instructor escaped with a broken leg, his client died after spending 23 days in a coma.
The entry to the Pisteurs is a large suspended face on the right bank, this is liable to windslab. After a narrow section the couloir opens up into a small bowl at mid slope, at the bottom of the bowl the route splits in two. It appears that the avalanche occurred at the entrance to this bowl and then carried the men over rocks and cliffs below.
The instructor was in court in Albertville today charged with manslaughter and risks an 18 month suspended prison sentence. Since an accident in December 2009 involving two ESF instructors that cost the life of their client the Savoy prosecutor has been taking a robust line with mountain professionals who they feel have committed an error.
Part of the discussion will revolve around the avalanche risk. There was no full bulletin issued by Meteo France for the day in question, it was too early in the season. However the court was told that the risk was 3/5 on the day of the accident. It remains to be seen if this has any legal standing as it is almost certainly an estimate by the resort. However there were numerous slabs formed by strong South to Southwest winds on the days before the avalanche. According to Meteo France on the 9th "recent accumulations remain very volatile because of the widespread presence of sub-layers of old fragile facetted snow. The passage of a skier can be enough to trigger a surface slab, a number of skiers can trigger a large slide”.
Judgement will be published on the 22nd May 2015.