Six dead, one missing in French avalanches

The rescue services were stretched to the limit this weekend as a series of avalanches with their epicenter close to the Italian border left six skiers dead and one missing. On Friday avalanches in Val d’Isere and Queyras killed two skiers with a Russian missing in the Mont du Vallon sectors sector of Meribel. He is believed to be buried under 5 meters of snow in a sector dangerous for rescuers. There was also a large slide under the Funitel at Val Thorens on an already heavily tracked slope.

Avalanche at Mont du Vallon, Meribel
Avalanche on the Mont Vallon - Niall Mckelvie

Today the good weather and up to a meter of fresh snow brought skiers out in force in the Queyras. A group of four skiers from the Grenoble area were caught by an avalanche in the commune of Ceillac. The avalanche occurred shortly after 13h00 on the north-west side of the Col de Beaubarnon.. All four members of the group were buried by the slide. One of the group was close to the surface and managed to drag himself out of the snow. He has been taken to Hospital in Briançon in a state of severe shock by the fire service. 20 rescue workers attended the scene but the slide had proved fatal to the three other members of the group. The deputy prefect for the area also attended the scene.

A couple of hours later four piste patrollers from Molines en Queyras were caught by an avalanche in the off piste route of the Bois du Grand Clos under the Combe Crosse in the Fontgillarde sector. On of the group was buried and killed by the slide.

The avalanche risk was Considerable (3/5) in the Queyras today with the bulletin warning of lots of windslab at altitude with a “High” risk on shaded slopes especially in the lee of the recent easterly winds. There has been 60cm of fresh snow in les Abriès and nearer to 100cm on Mont Viso since Tuesday accompanied by strong winds from the South-East and North. Meteo France has upped the risk to High (4/5) for Sunday and warns skiers to be extremely careful about venturing into the mountains especially in the Ceillac and ridges bordering on the Haute Ubaye.

Posted by davidof on Saturday, 19 March, 2011 at 05:36 PM

Photos of Mont Vallon Avalanche

Posted by davidof on  Sunday, 20 March, 2011  at 10:05 AM
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