Avalanche Today Sweeps Through Piste Area in Tignes, France

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Search operation - photo Val d'Isère piste patrol
Search operation – photo Val d’Isère piste patrol

PlanetSki reports this morning that an avalanche struck Tuesday hitting an open blue run in the French resort of Tignes. First reports said many skiers had been swept away by it, but it’s now been confirmed no one was buried.

Avalanche crosses the piste at Tichot Tignesnet.com
Avalanche crosses the piste at Tichot Tignesnet.com

The avalanche struck at 9:50 am local time, slamming into the Carline piste in the Val Claret area of Tignes. There were reports that several people had been swept away, but it’s now clear that no one was killed or seriously hurt and all those on the piste at the time are off the mountain.

Lots of skiers descending the piste earlier Raphael LEGENDRE via Twitter
Lots of skiers descending the piste earlier Raphael LEGENDRE via Twitter

It’s the second big avalanche to hit the resort in less than a month.  Four people were killed while snowboarding off-piste on February 13th, as we reported at the time. The Carline piste and the Tichot chairlift that serves it was the only area in the resort that was open this morning.

Search operation - photo Val d'Isère piste patrol
Search operation – photo Val d’Isère piste patrol

Reduced visibility made it very difficult to estimate how many skiers were on it at the time of the avalanche. The slide came down from the off-piste area of the Grande Balme and onto the piste.

A major rescue operation was launched and the ski station was closed completely as all staff were sent to the affected area to search for survivors. They were organized into groups of 30 to 40 and those without probes were given them.

Skiers behind the safety nets in Val Claret Raphael LEGENDRE via Twitter
Skiers behind the safety nets in Val Claret Raphael LEGENDRE via Twitter

 Phil Smith, an instructor with Snoworks, was one of those involved in the search. A few hours after the avalanche he said:

“We’ve just finished search. Looks like nobody caught. Can’t be 100% sure. But search finished.”– Smith

However, a spokesperson for the resort confirmed that, as a result of the search, no victims had been found buried.  She said several skiers had been hit by the avalanche and had been helped by resort workers.

Search operation - photo Val d'Isère piste patrol
Search operation – photo Val d’Isère piste patrol

The conditions in the Alps are very unstable with over 1m of fresh snow falling overnight. Tignes has had two days of almost continuous snow. With the very high risk of avalanche, skiers had been urged to remain on piste. Ski patrols deliberately set off avalanches in areas where they are likely to affect the marked runs or lifts.  An investigation is now likely to determine whether the Carline piste should have been closed.

This latest incident follows two fatal avalanches in the past week in the Aosta Valley in Italy, close to the French border.

 


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