There have been a series of avalanches, one fatal, with a return to wintery conditions in the French Alps over the last 10 days. Up to a meter of snow has fallen in some areas accompanied by strong northerly winds.
The most serious incident was on Friday (19/03/2021). Three ski tourers were caught by an avalanche at Aime la Plagne. The incident occurred on the north side of Mont Jovet under the pointe du Jarset at 2150 meters altitude at 10h30. Two of the skiers were partially buried, a 29 year old woman suffered from a fractured tibia. The uninjured skier was able to free himself from the snow and spotted the hand of the third victim but it was too late to save him. The group were described as “experienced”. Two of the group were local, the fatality was a vet from the Burgundy region of France. The avalanche risk was ⅗ (Considerable) with slopes from North, though East to South most at risk. The zero isotherm was around 800 meters and the bulletin warned of fragile slabs on weak layers, particularly above 2000 meters.
On Sunday (21/03/2021) a guide and member of the mountain rescue services was partially buried by an avalanche in Abondance while skiing with a client. The guide was badly injured in the slide suffering from thigh and hip injuries. The incident occurred in the Mont de Grange sector. The avalanche risk was ⅗ above 1800 meters altitude and the avalanche bulletin warned of fresh wind-slab due to the north wind.
On Saturday a man in his 50s suffered back injuries after an avalanche at Courchevel. A guide gave the alert after seeing the man’s head on the surface of the avalanche debris. The victim had been buried for over an hour and was suffering from hypothermia. The avalanche risk was ⅗ .
A number of other skier triggered avalanches were signalled but none with injuries requiring outside assistance although some gear was lost.
There were two avalanches in the Southern Alps on the 14/03/2021. Ski tourers triggered a slab on the left of the Peyrefolle chair (2400m.) in the ski resort of Risoul. A skier was partially buried by the slide and suffered leg injuries requirement hospital treatment in Briançon. At Orcières three ski tourers were hit by an avalanche in the Petite Autane sector. One of the skier suffered an ankle injury requiring helicopter rescue to hospital in Briançon. The Briançon hospital intensive care wards are currently at 100% capacity with Covid-19 patients.