Ski Instructor Charged with Manslaughter in Avalanche Death

ameliatraynor | | AvalancheAvalanche

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 “Couloir des Pisteurs” at Val d’Isere (

The instructor was found guilty of manslaughter this week by a court in Albertville, France, which will hand down its judgement on May 22ndA 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.

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One thought on “Ski Instructor Charged with Manslaughter in Avalanche Death

  1. I think they should reduce the guide’s sentence, since there is no legal precedent in this case, but I think the wording of the conviction should stand. I think it is a good development in a culture where gear manufacturers and the adventure tourism industry are marketing extreme sports to people who are simply deluding themselves into thinking they are ready to be out there. This conviction will give everyone some much needed perspective and make anyone thinking of venturing into the backcountry think carefully about whether they are ready to do so. Just because you are wearing an avalanche balloon pack does not make you an extreme athlete and you should know the limits of your skills and NOT be encouraged by the adventure tourism industry to overstep yourself and to put your life at risk. These people have no regard for their clients or reverence for Mother Nature. I consider Warren Miller to be of their ilk and think he is nothing more than a pimp and a drug dealer–offering adrenaline highs to young people who are adrenaline junkies. No passion is worth your life, especially when you are so young. Yes, extreme athletes LOVE what they do. Great. So do heroin addicts. Do we find it a noble thing to give them heroin and to make a film of them prostituting and ultimately killing themselves for their addiction? Yes, I know. Not a popular thing to say, dudes, and I am sure many readers will be highly unstoked to read it. But, there it is.

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