A Belgium couple, skiing off-piste with an instructor, were killed by an avalanche close to the ski resort of Champagny en Vanoise in the Savoie today. The skiers were at 2,500 meters altitude in the Combe des Arriérés when the avalanche struck. The alert was given by eye-witnesses a little after 11h15.
The instructor was able to escape the slide. The Piste Patrol and members of the Mountain Police were assisted by search and rescue dog teams from Courchevel, Les Arcs and la Plagne as well as a medical team and were transported to the scene by several helicopters. After a difficult search they found the couple using their avalanche beacons but both were in a state of cardiac arrest and were declared dead at the scene.
The couple, Pascal Methens aged 40 and head of Cisco Belux and his wife Sophie Weyers also aged 40 were at the start of a ski holiday with their four children, the youngest of which is just 3 years old. The area is served by the Rossa chairlift from Champagny and can be reached from the Roche de Mio. The north facing slopes of the Arriérés ridge as well as the large west slope under the Pointe de la Vélière are known for their avalanche risk. The combe is close to the Col du Tougne where a woman was killed by an avalanche on the 25th of January.
Météo France had already noted a large, full-depth avalanche in the Savoie department on Saturday on a west facing slope at 2,500 meters. The avalanche risk at the time of the accident was two on a scale of five and ski tracks were already visible on the slope. However the bulletin drew attention to the persistent cold at 2,500 meters and noted that unstable facetted crystals were continuing to develop in the snow pack.