American killed in Montgenèvre avalanche

An American has been killed in the Plane sector in the Vallon de la Doire by an avalanche today at 13h00. The man was with two other Americans off-piste skiing close to the resort of Montgenèvre when they triggered a slab avalanche at around 2500 meters altitude.

montgenevre avalanche

Another member of the group was seriously injured. At nearby Risoul two teenage snowboarders triggered an avalanche at 2200 meters altitude while riding off piste seriously injuring one. The avalanche risk was at High (4/5) over much of the Hautes-Alpes today.

In the Haute-Savoie a guide and his British client triggered an avalanche in the éperon des Cosmiques close to the Aiguille du Midi. They were approaching the summit of a couloir. The avalanche risk was Moderate (2/5) at the time and the bulletin for today had simply warned backcountry travellers to leave plenty of space on steep, shaded slopes.

====== Updated 2nd March 2006 =======

These photographs were sent to us by “Bert05” of and were taken just after the avalanche that killed well known Aspen skier Jon Seigle. Mr Seigle was on holiday at la Grave but his group which included a guide and friend Gary Sawyer of Basalt, Colorado had headed over to nearby Montgenèvre because the lift at la Grave was not running due to the avalanche risk.

The avalanche happened as the group skied into a series of bowls over a convex slope at 2,300 meters altitude just before 13h00. The slide, which had a 1 meter crown and took the whole snowpack, caught and buried Mr. Seigle and the group’s guide Gary Ashurst of Ketchum, Idaho. Mr Ashurst was seriously injured. Mr. Sawyer, who remained at the top of the slope, was not caught. The avalanche traveled 500 meters through a lightly wooded slope; the debris field was around 200 meters wide and 2 meters deep.

montgenevre avalanche

Bert tells us that slope (1) was skied around 10h30 then (2) and (3) with no signs of instability. The avalanche occurred between (3) and (4). Slope (4) was skied in the afternoon after the incident. The slope was around 40 degrees and north-west facing. The avalanche risk was High at the time (4/5).

Mr Seigle was known in Aspen as an expert but cautious skier. At the time of the accident he was equipped with the standard off-piste safety equipment of beacon, probe and shovel and was also had an AvaLung and was wearing a helmet. His group knew the area well and reports suggest that they thought that the tree cover would help reduce the avalanche risk. In the end impact with the trees probably proved fatal to Mr Seigle.

montgenevre avalanche
Rescue workers searching the debris (circled)

Local police have warned about following ski tracks or taken their presence as a sign of stability. The French avalanche forecasting service has even warned that they can be a weak point in the snowpack under certain circumstances. An avalanche the week before in the ski resort of Valfrejus also occurred on a tracked slope.

Posted by on Monday, 27 February, 2006 at 07:15 PM

The Aspen Daily News have named the victim as Llongtime Aspen resident Jon Seigle, aged 57. He had been on a trip to la Grave.

Posted by davidof on  Wednesday, 01 March, 2006  at 02:14 AM

There were two fatal avalanches yesterday, one in les Abriès in the Hautes-Alpes and the other in Valloire in the Savoie.

Posted by davidof on  Thursday, 02 March, 2006  at 11:37 AM
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