Posted on: 2024-01-08 22:07:44 by davidof

Series of avalanches in the French Alps

With the return to winter conditions, up to half a meter of fresh snow accompanied by strong winds, there have been a series of avalanches in the French Alps. The most serious was on Sunday above the ski resort of Sauze in the Southern Alps which killed a local skier.

On Thursday 4th January a ski tourer, equipped for speed-riding but descending on skis at the time was caught by an avalanche on the North West face of the Aiguille du Midi on the glacier Rond in the Mont Blanc mountains. The accident occurred at around 3800 meters altitude. The victim was carried to the base of the slope. Severely injured he was taken to hospital by the rescue helicopter. The avalanche risk was 3 (Considerable) warning of sensitive slabs formed by the W to SW wind of the previous day although the risk was of hard slabs at high altitude.

Mont Aunos avalanche [credit: CRS Alpes]

On Saturday a group of three ski tourers, two men and a woman were involved in an avalanche near the ski resort of Auron in the Southern Alps. The incident occurred on the north face of Mont Aunos at around 14h30 at 2450 meters altitude. The second skier to engage on the 35° slope was carried 200 meters down a couloir hitting two trees on the way. His colleagues were able to rescue him. All the ski tourers were equipped with avalanche beacons, probes and shovels. The victim suffered chest and hip injuries. The rescue services said the skiers were taking precautions on their tour, skiing one by one and skiing through glades; although clearly in this case the tree didn't prevent a slide. The avalanche risk was 3 (Considerable) on a scale of 5. The bulletin warned of numerous soft slabs on all slope aspects formed by the new snow especially above 2000 meters altitude. These could be triggered by the passage of a single skier. Avalanche of size 2 to 3 were possible with the risk increasing during as a NE wind could generate new slabs.

Rescue on north side of Mont Aunos [credit: CRS Alpes]

On Monday morning a lone skier was found dead after an extensive search operation near the ski resort of Sauze in the Alpes de Haute-Provence. He had been ski touring on Sunday. The alert was given on Monday morning when a friend was unable to contact him. He was killed by an avalanche under the tête des Fanets (2568m). A strong skier and well known locally he was a student in Grenoble. The avalanche risk was 3 (Considerable) above 2200m, 2 below. The avalanche bulletin warned of soft slabs formed during the snowfall on Friday/Saturday (up to 30cm of fresh) stating they were stabilizing by Sunday but a lone skier, particuarly above 2200 meters could still trigger a small to medium avalanche on all slope angles. New slabs could also form during Sunday near ridges exposed to the N to NE wind. A surface slide could also trigger a weak layer buried at 40-60cm on NW to SE aspects.

Also on Monday a season worker from les Menuires was found by chance by piste workers in Orelle above the Lory piste. The man had been skiing the North face of the Pointe du Boucher when he triggered a slide at around 2900 meters which took him 300 meters over rock bands. He was partially buried by the slide. He was not equipped with an avalanche beacon or helmet and was skiing alone. Due to low cloud he was evacuated by land to Francoz near Orelle where he received emergency medical treatment before being taken to hospital in a serious condition. The avalanche risk was 3/5 (Considerable) above 2000 meters altitude and the bulletin warned of easily triggered soft slabs formed over the weekend near to ridges which could trigger deeper weak layers (angular crystals in the snowpack).

Skier triggered avalanches were also reported in the Aravis and Chartreuse.