Avalanche in France’s Savoie region kills one; two missing

At least one person died and two others are missing after an avalanche struck the French ski resort of Valfrejus in the Savoie region, officials said.

A vehicle in December clears a ski piste in the French resort of Valfrejus in the Savoie region, where an avalanche on Tuesday killed at least one person. Photo courtesy of Valfrejus
A vehicle in December clears a ski piste in the French resort of Valfrejus in the Savoie region, where an avalanche on Tuesday killed at least one person. Photo courtesy of Valfrejus

A Dutch national died in the incident on Tuesday, a local police official said. The two people missing are also from the Netherlands.

Yan Chaboissier, director of the Valfrejus tourism office, said the skiers went off-piste — or deviated from prepared ski runs — Tuesday afternoon and sent a text message to a friend saying they were lost. The friend notified rescue services hours later and officials began a search-and-rescue operation.

Snowy conditions and the danger of more avalanches made the operation difficult and dangerous, Chaboissier said. Rescuers searched for the missing Dutch nationals again on Wednesday but had restricted access due to the avalanche.

Savoie regional authorities on Wednesday said the avalanche risk is at level four out of five — five being the most dangerous. People are advised not to participate in off-piste skiing or snowboarding.

The avalanche in the Savoie region follows one that occurred Tuesday morning that struck the French Alps ski resort of Tignes and one in February in which four snowboarders died.

By Andrew V. Pestano