4 dead, 5 injured in series of avalanches

Two teenagers have been killed this afternoon and another is in a very critical condition in Pra Loup, the body of a ski mountaineer was found close to ski resort of les Orres this morning by the mountain police (CRS) and an 18 year old has been killed skiing off-piste on Mont Joly close to the ski resort of Saint-Gervais in the Haute-Savoie.

Mont Joly
Mont Joly, scene of a fatal avalanche today

The Pra-Loup group were aged 15 and 17 years old and were snowboarding off piste in the Vallon du Pourret in the Agneliers sector between the resort and la Foux d’Allos. The accident occured at 13h30 at 2000 meters. Rescue workers were able to resuscitate one of the victims and he was taken to hospital in a very serious conditions. The group were all residents of Nice.

The sector where they were boarding has been closed to skiers and snowboarders by a bye-law since the start of the season. The mayor has threatened to prosecute anyone caught in any area that is currently off-limits. In Auron an off-piste skier was held overnight by police after triggering an avalanche in a closed sector recently.

The body of a ski mountaineer was found shortly before 04h00 at 2100 meters below the pic de Boussolenc in the vallon de Terre Noire close to the ski resort of les Orres in the Southern Alps. Mountain police (CRS des Alpes) had followed the man’s ski tracks from the car-park at the foot of the mountain to an avalanche. The victim, Fabrice Susset, was half covered by the slide and lightly dressed. He was wearing an avalanche beacon. M. Susset was a local man aged 37 and had a good knowledge of the mountains. He worked in the area of industrial rope access.

An 18 year old skier has been killed by an avalanche while skiing off-piste above the ski resort of Saint-Gervais in the Haute-Savoie. The accident occured at the end of the afternoon in the Stassaz sector. The skier was part of a group of 4 and was a resident of the village of Saint-Nicolas de Veroce situated at the foot of the mountain. His body was found after 50 minutes under the snow. At la Toussuire in the Maurienne valley a member of the piste patrol was buried by a large avalanche. Discovered in a state of cardio-vascular arrest rescue workers were able to restart his heart but he is in a serious condition. At nearby Val Fréjus a group of six skiers were hit by a large avalanche on the north face of the Pountabinia injuring three who were found thanks to their avalanche beacons. The avalanche risk was high (4/5) above 1800 meters in the Savoie and considerable (3/5) in the Haute-Savoie above 1700m. The Savoie avalanche bulletin had warned of hard and soft slab avalanches resting on a very weak snowpack on various slope aspects.

The series of accidents have left rescue workers and people responsible for ski resort security shocked. Ten people have been killed in avalanches since the start of the week, six in the Southern Alps, with a number of very serious injuries in accidents in Serre-Chevalier, les Deux Alpes, Tignes, Vars, Vallorcine, Auron, les Arêches and Puy Saint-Vincent. Police have warned skiers and snowboarders not to go off piste at the moment as conditions are very dangerous.

Close to a meter of snow fell between Wednesday 15th February and Sunday 19th in the Southern Alps This was on a very thin base that had been destructured by cold temperatures and consisted almost entirely of weak facetted snow. The fresh snow was accompanied by very strong winds gusting to 150km/h at times. The snowpack outside of secured ski pistes is very sensitive to extra load such as the passage of a single snowboarder, skier or snowshoer especially on any slope from east through north to west between 1800 and 2500 meters. The risk will continue for a number of days on any shaded aspect.


Posted by on Wednesday, 22 February, 2006 at 05:26 PM

Information on the Val Frejus avalanche - link in French with photos

Posted by davidof on  Thursday, 23 February, 2006  at 03:52 PM
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