The border areas between France and Italy have been at the epicenter of a number of avalanche incidents today, one of them fatal. The CRS des Alpes based in Briançon were called to 5 incidents this morning. In La Grave a group of four skiers triggered an avalanche in the north facing couloir du Patou, burying two, one of them completely. Assisted by the CRS all members of the group were able to ski back to the village. There were four avalanches in the Queyras. One under the Col des Ayes resulted in light injuries. A guided group were also hit by a slide under the tête de Girardin.
In the most serious incident a resident of Gap in the Hautes-Alpes was killed by a slide near the “Cabane de Clausis” above Ceillac in the Cristillan valley. The incident occurred around 15h00 at 2300m. The 58 year old man, who was equipped with an avalanche beacon, was found by his wife under 200cm of snow. The pair were ski touring at the time. The victim was an experienced ski mountaineer. The CRS were also called to an incident involving 5 skiers in Montgenèvre in the north facing off piste sector of la Plane. The victims had freed themselves by the time the rescue services arrived on the scene and did not require assistance.
The avalanche risk in the East Queyras is 4/5 (High) today, Considerable elsewhere in the region. The last two days have brought another 30cm of fresh snow to the area with up to a meter locally on the border with Italy. This fresh snow was blown by winds from the east to south-east then from the north during the course of Thursday.
A lone skier has been reported missing in Méribel. Witnesses in the Mont du Vallon sector (2950m) described seeing a skier hit by a large slide on the west face of the mountain. Despite a large search no trace of the skier was found. Rescue workers think he may be buried under 5 meters of snow in the lacs du Borgne sector (2550 m).
At Val d’Isere, the rescue services, including the piste patrol had to deal with four avalanche incidents around midday today. First was a slide near the Borsat in the Bellevarde but after a check no-one was taken. Next a large slide on the Envers de Cugnaï which was around 70cm deep. A Swedish national was recovered using the signal from his ARVA in a serious condition, he died later in hospital in Grenoble. He had been buried for 45 minutes under 300cm of snow. He was part of a group of six skiers. There was a further avalanche in the Ouille de Cugnaï. S&R was hampered by poor visibility but it seems no-one was taken. Finally a lone skier escaped with a knee injury in the Prariond after using his airbag.
The avalanche risk at Val d’Isere was 3/5 (considerable) with strong winds from the North to North-West. The greatest risk was on north sector slopes with 5-30cm of new snow on Thursday.