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French Snowboard Champion Dies in Avalanche

40-year old Julie Pomagalski has died in an avalanche in Switzerland. She was a two time Olympian and granddaughter of Jean Pomagalski, who invented the first ski lift in 1934.

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She was in a group of four on the Gemsstock mountain, 2,961m, in the Swiss canton of Uri when three of them were caught in the slide.

They were at an altitude of 2,100m on a north-east facing slope.

The avalanche risk in the area at the time was Level 3, meaning the danger was ‘considerable’.

Pomagalski and the French guide, Bruno Cutelli, were completely buried and died.

The other person survived and is said to be “slightly injured”.

“Suddenly there was an avalanche for reasons that are still unknown,” a police statement said.

“As a result, three people slid down the slope with the avalanche. One person was slightly injured and flown by Rega to Kantonsspital Uri hospital.

“The other two people were completely covered. Any help came too late for them.”

It brings the avalanche death toll in Switzerland this winter to 27, which is around the annual average.

In 1999 Julie Pomagalski was the snowboard cross world champion.

She came 6th in the parallel slalom at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in the USA in 2002.

She then competed at the Turin Olympics in Italy four years later and came 6th again.

She retired in 2007 with 34 World Cup podiums, eleven of them in Snowboard Cross.

She had 9 World Cup victories – 7 wins in Alpine Snowboard and 2 in Snowboard Cross.

“The tragic death of Julie, world snowboard champion and Olympian, leaves the French Olympic team in mourning for one of their own,” said the French National Olympic Committee.

Julie Pomagalski was born near Grenoble and lived Meribel where she worked in the tourist office.

She was the granddaughter of Jean Pomagalski who invented the first ski lift in 1934 and set up the lift company Poma.

The International Ski Federation, FIS, has also paid tribute.

“It is with great sadness that FIS learned of the passing of 1999 Snowboard Cross World Champion Julie Pomagalski in an avalanche in Switzerland this week,” it said in a statement.

“FIS would like to extend its deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Julie.”

The former Olympic GB skier, Emily Sarsfield, has added her tribute saying, “This is so sad! Such an amazing, kind, talented person, I will miss her and her huge smile in Meribel.”

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