Tributes to 34-year-old Mathieu Labrunie pour in as an investigation into the avalanche that swept across a piste continues in Crans-Montana. UPDATED





The French ski patroller, Mathieu Labrunie, was one of four people caught in the avalanche on Tuesday afternoon.
The other three were not seriously injured.
He was helping an injured person at the time.

He leaves behind a wife and two young children.

The latest tribute comes from the President of the Swiss Ski Patrol.

“The emotion is long among the professionals of the slopes after an avalanche of such magnitude on an open and crowded track,” said Thierry Meyer, the President of the organisation.

“Mathieu was there on foot… without any possibility of escaping. Just in the wrong place and at the wrong time… he pays with his life.”

“On behalf of all the professionals of the safety of the slopes and the rescue workers, I would like to send to the family and those close to Mathieu ….our deepest condolences. Your Passion, your dedication, your skills will forever remain in our memories.”

Tributes continue

Tributes continue











Thursday was declared a day of mourning across the ski area.

A minute’s silence was held throughout the ski area on Thursday at 2.23pm – the time the avalanche struck.
All the lifts stopped for the period of silence.
Some events have been cancelled a mark of respect, including Thursday night’s torchlight descent, though training for the Ladies’ downhill World Cup race on Saturday went ahead as planned.
Torchlight descent cancelled

Torchlight descent cancelled
















Employees are being invited to wear a black armband for a week.

The company has set up a fund to support the patroller’s family. 

In a statement Crans-Montana Cableways said it was deeply saddened to confirm the death of one of its rescuers.

He was quickly recovered but died early on Wednesday morning.

Mathieu Labrunie’s colleague and the injured person escaped with minor physical injuries.

On Thursday morning the police said two of the injured had been discharged from hospital while the third continues to be treated.

All work at the scene of the avalanche has now concluded.

“CMA’s management and all employees are deeply affected by this event and wish to express their deepest feelings of respect and compassion to the rescuer’s family and loved ones,” the company said in the statement published on the Crans Montana Facebook page.

He had worked in Crans Montana since 2010.

Crans Montana Facebook cover photo

Crans Montana in mourning












“He had a passion for the region and especially for rescuing people in the alpine environment,” the statement said.

“He was highly appreciated by his team and the entire company for his human and professional qualities.”

The avalanche happened on Tuesday afternoon in the Plaine Morte area of the Swiss resort.

Rescuers were on the scene within minutes.

The avalanche was at the bottom of the Kandahar slope at a spot known as ‘Passage du Major’.

It appears to have been triggered higher up and came over a cliff and down onto the piste.

Crans Montana avalanche

Crans Montana avalanche – photo Valais Police
















Those struck would have received little warning.

“We heard a loud noise. After, there was a huge avalanche. I have never seen a 1.5-metre-4 metre high avalanche in my life. It was just impressive. We were almost left behind too. It was a close call,” Martial, a 40-year-old skier, told the 20Minutes news site.

Alexis Ramu posted this video of someone filming from a helmet camera as the avalanche came down.



Crans Montana avalanche

Crans Montana avalance – photo Valais Police
















At a news conference on Tuesday night the Valais police confirmed that 4 people had been injured, 1 critically.

They were airlifted to Sion Hospital by helicopter.

There were reports that others were believed buried, though the authorities would not speculate on how many people may have been caught up in the avalanche.

A search continued overnight on Tuesday but was called off on Wednesday morning with the authorities satisfied everyone had been accounted for.

“What’s important for the intervention teams is that we do everything we can to verify whether or not people remain buried under the avalanche. That’s our main priority,” said a statement from the resort on Tuesday.

“The second is to take care of the families of the injured the best that we can,” it added.

Crans Montana

Crans Montana avalanche – photo Valais Police













400 metres of the piste were buried in the busy holiday week when the resort is near capacity – 8,000 people were out sking on the slopes of Crans-Montana on Tuesday.

The police say the avalanche was 840 metres long and 100 metres wide.

Crans Montana avalanche

Crans Montana avalanche – photo Valais Police
















Almost 250 people were involved in the search including the army who were in the resort helping prepare for this weekend’s women’s World Cup races.

Eight helicopters were deployed.

Crans Montana avalanche

Crans Montana avalanche – photo Valais Police

“Witnesses have said that other people may be buried, and the search continues with considerable resources,” local police commander Christian Varone said at the press conference on Tuesday evening.

The police opened an emergency hotline for people seeking information – 00 41 848 112 117

“We are in shock and we hope for a positive outcome for these people,”said the Crans-Montana President Nicolas Féraud.

The American ski racer, Mikaela Shiffrin, tweeted that she would not be in Crans Montana for the racing this weekend, but her thoughts were with all those affected.

Laura Lugon Zugravu was close by when the avalanche took place and shared the following photograph and video via Twitter.

Crans Montana avalanche (photo: Twitter Laure Lugon Zugravu)

Crans Montana avalanche (photo: Twitter Laure Lugon Zugravu)















Darius Rochebin took the following video of the avalanched area and shared it on Twitter.


The video below is courtesy of Le Nouvelliste (facebook):

The avalanche risk at the time was 2 on a scale of 5.

The means there is a “moderate” risk.

“A generally favourable avalanche situation will prevail,” said a forecast on Tuesday for Crans-Montana from the Swiss Avalanche Institute.

Tuesday's avalanche warning for Switzerand

Tuesday’s avalanche warning for Switzerand

An investigation into the accident is continuing and other slopes have been inspected.

“It is rare for an avalanche to hit the piste and certainly one of this size,” said the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, who knows the resort well.

“Sincee 1996 there have been five similar incidents in Switzerland  where an avalanche has come across a piste and they have resulted in a total of five deaths.”

“From the videos and photos I have seen it appears to have started spontaneously high up above the piste and then picked up a lot of snow as it got going.”

“There were huge snowfalls in the resort in January when PlanetSKI visited.”

“All potential avalanche areas near the pistes are mapped and closely observed – clearly something has gone very wrong here.”

“There have also been very warm temperatures in the past few days and this will have made the snow wet and heavy and is one of the factors the investigators will be looking at.”

Here at PlanetSKI we will be updating this article as we get more information.

For the Spirit of the Mountains – PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news