Seven ski tourers were killed in two separate avalanches in the region of Savoie in the French Alps on Saturday, taking the avalanche death toll to twelve in the last week.
“Two avalanches caused the death of seven people in the Savoyard massifs, Galibier and Mont Pourri on Saturday.”
– local media statement
The first avalanche hit two groups around 12 pm at Valloire, near the 8,670-foot Col du Galibier mountain. Four of the group, aged between 42-76, were killed, and rescuers managed to extricate the only survivor. Six soldiers from the High Mountain Gendarmerie Platoon (PGHM), two helicopters, and two avalanche dogs had been scrambled to search for the victims.
The second avalanche struck at 3 pm near the almost 12,467-foot-tall Mont Pourri, near Les Arcs ski resort, and about 90-miles northeast of the first avalanche, killing three people. All in their 30s from the Jura French Alpine Club, two men and a woman were skiing down from the Grand Col above Les Arcs. The alarm was raised by an eye witness in Ste Foy Tarentaise, who observed the mountains opposite with his binoculars.
Authorities had warned on Friday of the dangers of the snowpack due to recent heavy snow and warmer temperatures. As a result, the region was on a yellow alert (risk 3-4 out of 5) for avalanches.
After Saturday’s incident, they added that the risk of avalanches remained high in the region.
“The risk of an avalanche will be just as high, due to the warming of temperatures, which follows bad weather over several consecutive days. Consequently, the prefect of Savoie, Pascal Bolot strongly recommends that mountain users, whatever their level, avoid taking the slightest risk this Sunday.”
Five people had already died Monday in two avalanches in Isère and the Hautes-Alpes. At least 35 people have now died in avalanches since the start of the 2020-21 season, according to the National Association for the Study of Snow and Avalanches (ANENA). The two previous seasons saw twelve and thirteen deaths. The increase in deaths has been attributed to the closure of the ski lifts.