Conditions remain unstable across much of the French Alps with three fatalities this week in separate incidents and avalanches involving skiers and climbers in Ceillac, Serre Chevalier, Val Thorens, Courchevel, Meribel and Bonneville sur Arc; fortunately most without serious injury.
On Monday an off piste skier had a lucky escape after being buried 35 minutes under an avalanche at Bonneval sur Arc. The avalanche occurred at 2300 meter in the Ouille Mouta sector close to the top of the Mulinet drage; the slope was destabilized by rapidly warming conditions.
A large search and rescue operation was put in place (probe search, the victim didn't have a beacon) by the piste services but it was only when the mountain rescue (CRS des Alpes) arrived by helicopter with their dog Mojo that the victim was found. He had been under the snow for 35 minutes and was suffering from hypothermia but had no other injuries. The avalanche risk was 3 above 2200 meters on all slope aspects with a persistent weak layer in place following fresh snow and high winds.
Avalanche at Bonneval sur Arc
Also on Wednesday a piste worker was caught by an avalanche in the Sybelles ski area while preparing the pistes under the col de Bellard. His piste basher was carried 150 meters downhill, turning over several times during the slide. The driver was able to escape with cuts and bruises and alerted the his colleagues by radio. The avalanche occurred on a NE facing slope at 2250 meters.
Stricken piste basher under the col de Bellard
On Thursday an off piste skier was killed on the Crête des Lanchettes above the ski resort of les Arcs. An eye witness said that two avalanches had been triggered by off piste groups at around 2600m on NW facing slope. The first, a small avalanche, by a group of four off piste skiers around 13h30 without victim. Around 15h00 there was a second avalanche in the same zone. The first group had actually skied this area earlier without triggering the slide. This second slide was much larger. Two skiers were involved, a man and his girlfriend. The man was buried under 4 meters of snow and died at the scene, his girlfriend escaped uninjured. There was no avalanche bulletin published as Meteo France were on strike but the risk would have been 3 at that altitude following fresh snow and high winds.
The website Data Avalanche has recorded over 60 avalanches since the storm cycle last week.