British Boarders Killed by Tignes Avalanche

Two British snowboarders have been killed by a massive avalanche on the North face of the Grande Motte glacier at Tignes. The slab avalanche, which measured 500 meters wide and 1.5 meters deep in places broke 100 meters above the snowboarders at around 3,200 meters. The alert was given shortly after 16h00 by a witness who had seen the avalanche and the two snowboarders. The boarders were carried some 700 to 800 meters over a series of cliffs and were buried under a mixture of snow, ice and rocks.

The two snowboaders were on a popular but technically difficult off-piste route at the time. Aged in their twenties and off-piste enthusiasts they were season workers based with a small UK tour operator in Val d’Isere. Both were equipped with avalanche beacons. The avalanche occured in a spot that was difficult for the 30 rescue workers to reach, situated between cliffs with the risk of crevasses and further avalanches in the sector. The search was abandonned with nightfall.

The body of one of the snowboarders was found by rescue workers shortly before midday today at the base of a 100 meter cliff. They had detected a signal from his transceiver. An avalanche beacon, belonging to the second victim and mobile phone have also been found. The beacon was in the pocket of the victim’s anorak which had been ripped in two, a testament to the force of the slide. A signal from another piece of electronic equipment has been detected under some 7.5 to 10 meters of snow. A number of deep trenches have been dug but so far with no result. The recovery operation has been suspended for the moment due to the arrival of bad weather and the risk of rockfall and further snow slides.

The avalanche risk was 3 (considerable) at the time with some 30cm of fresh snow in the area; the avalanche bulletin had noted the risk of slab avalanches above 2300 meters. The north face of the Grande Motte is known more for crevasse than avalanche risk. The director of the Tignes Piste Service, Jean-Louis Tuaillon put the accident down to bad luck rather than any particular error committed by the young men. 15 of the 23 French avalanche deaths have occured in the Savoie this season with a worrying increase in the number of off-piste snowboarders and skiers getting caught. Despite a greater emphasis on off-piste safety with the introduction of transceiver training and the SPOT (Skiing Powder of Tignes) there have been two other snowboarder fatalities in the Espace Killy this season.

Snowboard Instructor killed in Val d’Isere - 27 Jan 2005

Four Killed in Separate Avalanches - 25 Jan 2005

Posted by on Friday, 22 April, 2005 at 02:36 PM

The body of the second snowboarder was found yesterday at 2,425 m. The man’s leg and glove were spotted after avalanche debris had begun to thaw. The body was lower than originally thought.

Posted by davidof on  Thursday, 30 June, 2005  at 03:32 AM
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