French Alps: Two British skiers killed after venturing off-piste near Chamonix

Two British skiers fell "hundreds of metres" to their deaths near the French Alps resort of Chamonix on Sunday after venturing off-piste.

French Alps: Two British skiers killed after venturing off-piste near Chamonix

The two skiers, described as a British national and Franco-British national aged 25 and 30, who were on holiday in the Alps, were skiing off-piste at around 1,700 metres altitude with a friend of around the same age.

They were skiing in the Couloir du Chapeau in the Grands Montets skiing area. Reports say they were trying to cross a rocky area.

According to the specialist mountain police who were called out once the alert was raised on Sunday morning, the two skiers fell independently of each other when they were trying to navigate a 40 degree slope.

The third skier who raised the alarm was not hurt. He was airlifted to Chamonix where an investigation was underway to determine the exact cause of the tragedy. The bodies of the victims were also recovered.

Police believe the skiers got into difficulty after following tracks to an area that was unsafe.

“The conditions at the time were not good and it seems like they followed tracks to an area where we had already been called out to on Saturday, luckily for an incident that was not serious,” a spokesman for the mountain Gendarmerie said.

Officials are warning skiers to take extreme precaution especially when venturing off-piste. Chamonix was hit by huge snowfalls in recent weeks which put the area on avalanche alert and scores of holiday-makers had to be evacuated from chalets.

The weather has been mild in recent days which has made the slopes, particularly off piste, more unstable.

A local police spokesman said: “Three British men were skiing Le Couloir Du Chapeau. It is a steep off-piste area. The snow at the moment is very hard, it is not powder skiing. The conditions in the couloir are not good.”

It's been a tragic winter for British holidaymaker in the French Alps.

Last month The Local reported how a young British man froze to death at a ski resort after getting lost on his way home from a bar.

And just days later another British skier was reported missing in the resort of Tignes after taking a ski lift for the final descent of the day. 




Tourism minister: Book your French ski holiday now

France’s ski resorts will be open for business this winter, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has promised - but no decision has yet been taken on whether a health pass will be required to use ski lifts.

Skiers at a French Alpine resort
Photo: Philippe Desmazes / AFP

“This winter, it’s open, the resorts are open,” Lemoyne told France 2’s 4 Vérités programme.

“Compared to last year, we have the vaccine,” he said, adding that he would “invite those who have not yet done so to [book], because … there will soon be no more room.”

And he promised an answer ‘in the next few days’ to the question of whether health passes would be required for winter holidaymakers to use ski lifts. “Discussions are underway with the professionals,” he said.

The stakes are high: the closure of ski lifts last winter cost manufacturers and ski shops nearly a billion euros. 

This year ski lifts will remain open, but a health pass may be necessary to access them. The health pass is already compulsory for après ski activities such as visits to bars, cafés and restaurants.

COMPARE The Covid rules in place at ski resorts around Europe

Many town halls and communities which depend on winter sports have found it difficult or impossible to make ends meet.

“It’s time for the French mountains to revive,” Lemoyne said, pointing to the fact that the government has provided “more than €6 billion” in aid to the sector.

Winter tourism professionals, however, have said that they are struggling to recruit for the winter season.

“Restaurant and bars are very affected,” by the recruitment crisis, one expert told Franceinfo, blaming a lack of urgency from authorities towards the winter holiday industry.

“We are all asking ourselves what we should do tomorrow to find full employment in the resort,” the expert added.

Post-Brexit visa and work permit rules mean that ski businesses have found it difficult to recruit Brits for short-term, seasonal positions.