• France's news in English
French Alps Avalanche
Alps avalanche: Why was school party on closed piste?
Photo: AFP

Alps avalanche: Why was school party on closed piste?

The Local/AFP · 14 Jan 2016, 17:26

Published: 14 Jan 2016 17:26 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Jan 2016 17:26 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
The avalanche at the Deux Alpes resort on Wednesday claimed the lives of two teenage pupils and a Ukrainian man, who is understood to have been skiing separate from the school group.
The snow engulfed 19 pupils in all and three staff members from the Lycée Saint-Exupéry de Lyon. Three pupils have been left in a serious condition. 
The others were saved after a mammoth rescue effort involving helicopters and sniffer dogs.
But among the tributes to the victims, others have been left in disbelief as further details of the tragedy emerge.  Many are asking questions about the actions of the teacher, who was left unconscious in the snow-slide.
Reports say that it was his idea to take the closed sky run. On Thursday afternoon the teacher was formally placed in police custody on suspicion of causing multiple manslaughter. 
Local mayor Stephane Sauvebois said "foolhardy risks were taken" when the group ventured onto the closed piste   
"How can you think of taking children, following periods of heavy snowfall, onto a piste which was closed?" French Minister for Youth and Sports Patrick Kanner told reporters.
"A judicial inquiry will say why the teacher who was himself injured took (the group) onto a piste which was not open," he added.
It's emerged that the piste has been closed to the public since the start of the ski season and representatives of those in charge of Deux Alpes have insisted that the piste was definitely closed off with "netting" in place.
The local prosecutor Jean-Paul Bonnetain said it would have been impossible for the group to have taken the slope by mistake.
"No one could say they didn't know it was closed," Bonnetain said.
The video below shows search teams looking for possible survivors of the avalanche.
The risk of avalanches in Alps has increased after heavy snow falls in recent days were followed by strong winds. That has led to unstable formations of snow high up in the mountains.
Authorities and police have issued multiple warnings in recent days.
A student lights a candle at the Lyon high school. Photo: AFP
Dominique Letang of the National Association for the Study of Snow and Avalanches said it was "infuriating" that anyone was skiing on the slope in the first place.
"What is surprising is the number of people involved, even though we keep on saying that they must take it one at a time when the snow cover is unstable," he said.
"There is a good chance that it was the skiers themselves that triggered the avalanche".
He added that the avalanche risk on the black slope - the highest difficulty rating in France - was three on a scale of five.
One skier who descended the piste before the group of school children said he saw the signs warning that it was closed but decided to take it anyway.
"You could feel that the snow had just fallen and it hadn't had the time to pack down. It wasn't solid," the skier called Ryan told BFM TV.
(Rescue teams gather for search and rescue operations on a piste at the avalanche site. Photo: AFP)
Investigators believe the avalanche was triggered either by noise or it was simply spontaneous after the heavy snow and high winds left unstable snow slabs high up above the slopes.
Story continues below…
Early reports suggested the snow-slide began at an altitude of 2,800 metres while the ski party was 400 metres below.
The avalanche was around 20 metres wide and 300 metres long, according to authorities. 
"It's typical of a slab of snow formed by strong winds in recent days," said Letang from the National Association for the Study of Snow and Avalanches
The dangers of straying from open ski slopes in the French Alps have made headlines twice this year, after four skiers died in separate avalanches after going off piste.
Authorities in the Alps have called on those practicing winter sports to take the necessary precautions so as not to put their lives in danger.
Following Wednesday's tragic accident, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve released a statement repeating his appeal from earlier in the month for people in the area to "exercise the utmost caution" and to follow the instructions of the local authorities.
The avalanche occurred at the ski resort Les Deux Alpes, in Isère. Photo: Google Maps

The Local/AFP (news.france@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 'to sell their French chateau'
All photos: AFP

Want to live where Brangelina got married?

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available