A father, two brothers and their snowboard instructor were killed in a fatal avalanche in Tignes on Monday.
The family group, with an ESF (the official French ski school) instructor, were snowboarding off piste on the Lavachet Wall which overlooks Tignes Le Lac when they were caught in a large slide of about 400 metres.
Four bodies were recovered early on, but a rescue operation was continuing throughout the day. There were initially conflicting reports of how many were in the group – initially it was thought there were 9. But France’s Associated Press later reported news from ESF that the larger group had been split into two. The victims’ group was confirmed to have four people including instructor, though the rescue operation continued through the day because it was possible a fifth could have joined them at the last minute, sources said. It’s now believed this was a woman who separated from the group before the avalanche and has been confirmed as safe.
The group included a father, 48 years, his son of 15 years, and half-brother of 19 years. They died in the avalanche, as did the 59-year-old ESF instructor who was leading them. People in resort have been paying tribute to the instructor, named as Laurent Ruiz, who was well known. Local shop Snowdroppe, based in Tignes Val Claret, posted on their Facebook page (translated from French):
Thank you laurent for the passion that you had for sliding; thank you for all your visits to the shop, telling us about your exploits, thank you for your good mood, thank you for taking so many of our customers out to enjoy your expertise… We loved it getting to know you, really! We’re going to hate your absence!! We’re thinking a lot of your family.. ride in peace my friend! We won’t forget you!! The team of the shop
A spokesperson for Tignes ski resort said the group had already snowboarded along the same route earlier that morning, and there were numerous other tracks left there from the previous couple of days. They added that all those involved were equipped with avalanche safety gear including transceivers.
The alert was given at 11am in the Toviere area at an altitude of 2,000 metres.
Tignes is currently busy with holidaymakers during the school half-term holidays – one of the resort’s busiest weeks of the year.
The avalanche risk level was 3 (out of 5) – Considerable. We’d urge everyone to check the risk level before setting out – for more info on what to look out for click here.
The rescue effort went on well into the afternoon, with dozens of rescuers conducting a probe search. Here’s a video of the scene:
The avalanche happened very close to Trolles piste, which descends right into Tignes Le Lac, and can be seen from the resort. The resort was protected by a large ditch dug into the bottom of the slope, where the avalanche piled up, burying victims. The snow was so deep at the base of the avalanche that it had to be dug out with piste bashers.
Edge reporter Vanessa, who was on the scene all day, gave an interview to Sky News from the scene earlier. She described it as “a sombre day for Tignes”.