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Skiers in France warned over dangers after another deadly avalanche in Alps

Skiers in France are being warned to take the "utmost caution" especially when skiing off-piste after another deadly avalanche left at least tow dead in the French Alps on Sunday.

Skiers in France warned over dangers after another deadly avalanche in Alps
AFP

Two skiers from France and Belgium were killed in avalanches in the French Alps on Sunday while three other people remain missing, a local official said.

The deaths add to the toll in the French mountains from avalanches since Friday.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb,  on Twitter, urged all those taking part in winter sports to act “with the utmost caution.”

It is essential to follow the signs put up by local authorities “to avoid putting yourself in danger and endangering rescue teams”.

The two skiers died during simultaneous avalanches around lunchtime, while skiing off-piste from the Vallorcines resort  in the Chamonix-Mont Blanc region.

One of the skiers was dug out of the snow alive but died hours later in hospital, The second, the Belgian skier was found dead.

Another Belgian in the same group was injured.

An hour earlier, at Samoens near the Swiss border, a Swiss hiker was swept away by another avalanche. Bad weather forced searchers to abandon their efforts to find him later in the day.

The man's wife was also buried in snow but escaped with only minor injuries.

“We are pessimistic about his chances as he has already been five hours under the snow, ” an Haute-Savoie regional official told AFP at 1700 GMT
Sunday.

In neighbouring Savoie rescuers were looking for two missing skiers, aged 47 and 49, who were caught in an avalanche off-piste at Planay in the
Tarentaise Valley in the heart of the French Alps.

On Saturday two Spanish skiers were killed when an avalanche hit a group skiing off-piste on a mountain in southeastern France.

A day earlier four skiers were killed in the Mercantour National park in the French Alps, the deadliest avalanche of the winter so far.

TOURISM

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.

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