One dead in Tignes Avalanche

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The season has barely begun and already there has been a fatality in Tignes. The exact events leading to the accident are slightly unclear, but the following has been gained from translating French internet news sites:

Two people were rescued Wednesday 5th December after a 150m wide avalanche was triggered around noon in the Tignes ski area. The two yound skiers (one male, one female), both around 20 years old, were rescued from the debris.

The girl was said to have undergone cardiac massage for almost an hour, having been under the snow for over 40 minutes, until a faint pulse was finally felt. The ski station doctor struggled to reach the scene quickly due to the massive amount of snow present. The victim was evauated by road and air to Grenoble. Unfortunately she was confirmed dead the following day.

The other victim was rescued after around 15 minutes under the snow, and is not thought to be seriously injured. A third victim was not hurt or buried, but was badly shaken by the events.

The two youths were attending a course run by UCPA in order to gain the National Ski Instructor qualification. The third person was their instructor on the course. UCPA stated that they could not understand the accident as this descent was not part of their training programme.

Information so far suggests that the group were not equipped with Avalanche Transceivers, shovels or probes. Hence over 100 people and four dog teams were involved in the rescue. The area is a North Facing slope, near the piste, below the Aeroski lift.

Comment: This is a very serious accident that has resulted in one young person losing her life. All the facts are not yet known so it would not be right for me to cast judgement. However, if the group were as ill-equipped as is reported in the French Press then there has been a total lack of respect for the mountain. Recent snowfalls have been huge, and the avalanche risk was graded as 4/5. Anyone venturing off-piste should ALWAYS make careful judgements and MUST be fully equipped with shovel, transceiver and probe. The fact that you are within the boundaries of a ski area is irrelevant - you should always be correctly equipped before you venture off-piste.

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