One of the World’s Top Freeriders Searches for Friend In Verbier Avalanche
20th January 2021
Last modified on January 22nd, 2021
Xavier de Le Rue is an Olympian and a Freeride World Tour winner, but this week he was another rider searching desperately for a friend under the snow. His friend was one of 8 people that died in Switzerland in a tragic 4-day period. The authorities continue to urge extreme caution.
It was an horrific period in Switzerland from last Friday into Monday.
Fatalities in separate avalanches accidents in Emmetten, Engelberg, Klosters, Morschach, Veytaux, the Bernese Oberland and two in Verbier.
We reported on them all, plus ones in France, in this earlier article.
Xavier de Le Rue was involved in the search for the 38-year old British man who died on Monday.
The deceased was a much-loved and well respected local who worked in the resort as a chef.
He originally came from Doncaster.
Just two hours later in Verbier a 29-year-old ski instructor from Ireland died in the Gentianes off piste area.
He worked for a ski school in Verbier we know very well here at PlanetSKI and we have heard from distraught colleagues.
They have lost one of their own
A friend and fellow instructor helped in the search.
We reported the full details here:
Xavier de Le Rue lives in Verbier after growing up in the French Pyrenees.
He is a well-known figure in the resort.
Xavier gives his personal experience of the situation and urges people to take note.
Here is his account:
“The perfect bluebird powder day… the perfect day from hell.
Verbier lost two riders on Monday in separate avalanches, I will tell you the story of one, because I hope in doing so I can make you think twice and prevent another.
I was up riding with a large group, whose ability I didn’t know so I took a “safe” option and whilst riding we witnessed a large avalanche coming through “Rock n Roll couloir”.
I went straight to search the debris, seeing someone buried to their waist with their airbag pulled I felt relief that they were not buried and went to check that they were fine before continuing the search.
It was my friend, and he was not fine, through the avalanche he had sustained a head trauma that ended his life.
I felt totally useless, overwhelmed, I was meant to be the expert, I have made videos on how to deal with this situation – but it was horrific.
I went through the motions, called 112, directed others to search and started CPR, because someone told me I should, but I felt hopeless.
I want you to know this so that you think about this before you drop into a line, you take all the precautions, you know your equipment, you turn back or even stay home.
My friends were riding a line that would have been one of my first choices on that day had I not been with the large group.
The Couloir they were going into had slid two days before – theoretically making it a safe option- but they had to cross a pocket of snow to get to the entrance.
This is what slid, I have never seen it slide on that scale in my whole time in Verbier.
Everything has changed and we have lost a friend.
My thoughts are with the friends and families of my friend and the young instructor who lost his life on Monday, as well as the six other people who lost their lives in avalanches over the weekend.”
The authorities are re-iterating similar advice.
“To limit the risks, use secure and marked routes, find out about the weather situation and the risk of avalanches,” saif the cantonal police
“Every off-piste skier should carry a telephone and emergency equipment: avalanche victim detector, probe and shovel.”