Tignes Avalanche Update

A family decimated.
Kenny Jesus

There was a lot of confusion on the scene of the Lavachet Wall avalanche yesterday but clear details have finally emerged.  

The group taken by the slide was a group of 4, and not of 9 as previously reported.  It is currently not clear why authorities were looking for 9 victims.

The instructor was a very high-level ESF snowboard instructor, aged 59, with years of experience.  His clients were a family from the South of France: a father, 48; his son, 15; and his step-son, 19 - all strong snowboarders, all wearing avalanche kit.

The slide took them while they were boot-packing across the face which cut in to the snowpack, weakening it, and causing the slide to release. 40m wide at its release point, the avalanche took the victims over 400m down the slope burying them underneath 7m of snow in a man-made gully built for the express purpose of protecting the houses behind it from avalanche debris.

With Météo France's avalanche bulletin warning of windslabs and instability on slopes of this aspect an investigation will follow.  Jean-Christophe Vitale, the mayor of Tignes, has gone on record to say: "He was a very experienced professional who knew the area well. I'm sure he took every precaution while taking his clients to this place, but off-piste zero risk does not exist."

One bright-side to the incident is that one 16-year-old who was with the group when they did the same run earlier in the morning wasn't with them on the second run.  Either experiencing problems with his equipment or after a fall the instructor sent him down the pistes for the day.  It wasn't until the afternoon that he learnt the group he was with were caught in the slide.

Hero image: Radio Val d'Isere