A ski instructor in Val d’Isere has been charged with manslaughter, following the death of his client in an avalanche in December 2010. The avalanche occurred off-piste in the “couloir des pisteurs” on the north face of the Charvet.
The two men were carried 400 meters by the slide, and while the instructor managed to stay above the snow, his client was completely buried by the avalanche. Thanks to an avalanche beacon, he was found after 20 minutes. The client was already in a state of cardio-vascular arrest, and was airlifted to Grenoble.
The 50-year-old instructor escaped with a broken leg, but his client, a surgeon from Aix-en-Provence, tragically died after 23 days in a coma.
The instructor was found guilty of manslaughter this week by a court in Albertville, France, which will hand down its judgement on May 22nd. A suspended jail sentence of 18-months has been requested by the prosecution.
The implications of a guilty verdict cast a shadow on guided backcountry skiing. Instructors may begin to refuse requests from clients to take them into the backcountry, fearing legal action if something were to go wrong.
While guides and instructors should take every precaution to ensure the safety of their clients, there’s an onus on anyone who decides to ski off piste. Stay safe out there, and take a course in avalanche safety.