The authorities have called for caution after a number of avalanches in the French Alps today. They particularly singled out local skiers and warned them not to underestimate the risk 3 which is a Considerable risk.
The most serious incident was in the Lauzière range near La Léchère. Two ski tourers skiing down were caught by a large slab avalanche at 2300 meters altitude at around 11h00 in the north west` facing combe des Plans at Valmorel. The slide took most of the bowl. One skier was able to actuate his avalanche airbag and was buried up to his hips. He required help from ski tourers who witnessed the slide to free himself. The second skier was located and recovered after 22 minutes by other witnessed buried under 3 meters of snow. In a state of cardio vascular arrest he could not be revived. Witnesses said there was around 20cm of fresh snow and a rain crust that disappeared above 2100 meters altitude. The victims were on a slope less than 30 degrees, it appears the steeper slopes were remotely triggered and the large avalanche overwhelmed the skiers lower down.
Mountain rescue units based at Courchevel arrived on the scene shortly afterwards. The victim was a local man aged in his 50s. This brings the number of fatalities to 7 since the start of the season in France. In a normal season the number would be less than 1 at this point. The avalanche risk in the sector was 3 above 2200 meters and the bulletin warned of fresh snow with a persistent weak layer and new slabs formed by the foehn (strong southerly wind). A single skier could trigger a slab, especially on West North and East aspects. The weak layer is about 40cm under the surface and not sufficiently bridged at present. Rain to 2200 meters has stabilized the snow-pack at lower altitudes.
Three people were caught by an avalanche at la Grave in the Hautes-Alpes under the cable car. A 22 year old woman suffered knee injuries and two of the group were completely buried. The website data-avalanches.org recorded 10 avalanches today.
Update 18 Dec 2022
Two off piste skiers have been caught in an avalanche in the ski resort of Serre Chevalier today at 11h00. The avalanche occurred near the Yret chairlift in the Monêtier-les-Bains sector. One skier was partially buried and injured in the slide. The avalanche risk was 3/5 above 2200 meters.