Paris, December 30, 2023
In the French Alps, an avalanche in the off-piste area of the Saint-Gervais-les-Bains ski resort on Mont Blanc has claimed the lives of a 54-year-old British mother and her 22-year-old son. The tragic event unfolded on Thursday at an altitude of 2,300 meters (7,545 feet), leaving another skier, reportedly their instructor, injured. Additionally, a separate accident resulted in the death of a hiker in the Écrins range near Grenoble.
The British Foreign Office released a statement expressing condolences and confirming their support for the bereaved family. The victims were part of a group skiing outside the designated slopes when the avalanche, measuring 400 meters wide, occurred. The instructor, buried by the snow, was equipped with an avalanche detector and was promptly located, sustaining light injuries. The husband and father of the deceased, along with four others, managed to escape the disaster.
Local authorities initiated an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the tragic deaths. The victims’ identities have not been disclosed.
Jean-Luc Boch, the president of the Association of Mountain Station Mayors, emphasized the inherent risks of off-piste skiing, stating, “Zero risk doesn’t exist off-piste. There is always a risk weighing over you, even if accompanied by professionals. In the mountains, security is the most important thing, and you have to be extremely careful.”
In a separate incident, a 31-year-old hiker lost his life in the Écrins range near Grenoble after falling 500 meters. The walker had ventured off the designated track to observe chamois, a type of goat-antelope, with a friend.
Saint-Gervais Mayor Jean-Marc Peillex highlighted the unstable weather conditions during the tragic episode, stating, “It rained, it snowed, it was warm. There are enough marked paths to ski on. It’s terrible what happened. A family is decimated, and we are very sad in Saint-Gervais.”
The avalanche triggered a massive response from mountain rescuers, who worked tirelessly to locate and assist those affected. With an ongoing investigation into the cause of the avalanche, the community mourns the loss of lives in this unfortunate incident.