Skiers on a “family slope” in the popular French Alpine resort of Tignes that was hit by an avalanche on Tuesday morning have all been found safe and well, French officials have said.
Two hours after the avalanche, local gendarmes who feared a large number of skiers were under the snow, said they had examined every metre of the piste and found no victims.
A full-scale rescue operation had been called, but was hampered by difficult weather conditions and poor visibility, making it impossible for helicopters to fly over the area. The ski resort was closed to the public.
The avalanche struck a blue – intermediate difficulty – slope popular with families with young children. It is unusual for designated ski pistes, which are maintained and flagged, to be affected by avalanches, which usually happen in off-piste areas where the snow is less stable, leading to a higher risk.
When the risk of avalanche is high, ski resort staff set off small explosions around mapped slopes where the snow is unstable to ensure the security of pistes.
The avalanche warning level for Tignes on Tuesday was four out of five, meaning a strong likelihood of an avalanche.
Skis and batons found on the piste, which was reportedly the only one open in the resort on Tuesday morning, raising fears that a number of skiers had been buried.
Two hours after the avalanche, the local prefecture announced rescuers had tested the snowfall and there were no victims.
A Facebook group set up for seasonal workers in Tignes had called on members to help. “We need all hands on deck now, please grab your gear and head up … all help appreciated,” one post said.
Last month, three members of the same family and their snowboard instructor died in an avalanche near the same resort.
In January, 29 people died in Italy when an avalanche buried a hotel in the central town of Rigopiano.