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Friday February 22, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

They are the unsung heroes as they make the slopes safe for the rest of us & come to our aid if injured. Five have died this winter in the Alps.

The latest fatality was the ski patroller, 34-year-old Mathieu Labrunie, who was attending to an injured person in the resort of Crans-Montana.

A huge and apparently spontaneous avalanche came across the piste.

He was found quickly by fellow patrollers and flown to hospital but died from his injuries.

The accident happened last Tuesday and we reported on it in full on PlanetSKI.

"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 Swiss Ski Patrol.

"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."

Another Swiss patroller, Christophe Dubosson, was caught in an avalanche in Champoussin as he was setting off avalanches to make the slopes safe.

He died from his injuries.

In France last month two patrollers died in Morillon as the explosives they were using detonated prematurely.

The pair was preparing the explosives at a height of 1,800m.

They were killed by the explosion and did not die after being caught up in the avalanche the blast set off.

Their colleagues had to come to find them and recover the bodies.

They had been sent out to do their job in the Lanches sector of the resort before the ski slopes were opened to the public, after a night of heavy snowfall.

Skiers had been warned that the risk of avalanche was at four on a scale of one to five.

Another French patroller has also died this season.

"It has been a black season for the safety services of the slopes... three deaths in neighbouring France, two in Valais this season," said Thierry Meyer.

"They will remain, in our memories, marked by sadness and thought for our missing colleagues . These patrols and paramedics are driven by their passion for this profession."

"All were taken away in the exercise of their profession to serve the happiness of skiers and snowboarders to secure their ski area."

A few years ago PlanetSKI went out with the piste patrol in Tignes, France as they set about making the slopes safe.

Tignes avalanche patrolTignes avalanche patrol
















As described safety is paramount and all patrollers go through strict and on-going training and refresher courses.

But simply due to the inherent dangers of their job accidents happen:

They are in many ways the invisible guardians of the slopes as they set off avalanches and assess slopes before the lifts open and often before most people are up.

They are the ones that come to help you if your are injured on the slopes.

Patrollers to the rescuePatrollers to the rescue
















And if you care to go into a pisteurs hut they are always welcoming and full of useful information about the slopes and where is best to ski.

"I was in Serre Chevalier in the southern French Alps last month and wanted to find our about the stability of the snow in a certain area," said the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove.

"I knocked on the door of their hut and was invited in. They gave me a full explanation and I ended up staying for 20-minutes or so as they offered me coffee and cake."

Pisteur from the Serre Chevalier ski patrolPisteur from the Serre Chevalier ski patrol















With luck the spate of accidents will come to and end but with a sharp rise in temperatures and many weeks of the season left to go the risks are still very much present for the ski patrollers across the mountains.


There has been swift reaction over on our Facebook page.

Facebook reactionFacebook reaction

Feel free to add you comments on the work of the ski patrollers on the PlanetSKI Facebook.

And the Val d'Isere pisteurs have sent us the following comment in reaction to our article:

"Thank you very much, for this very beautiful article on our colleagues unfortunately tragically disappeared, and on this job that we are so passionate about .... Thank you."


And do check out this fascinating film from Global shots - Beyond the Pistes.

It documents the lives of the ski patrol in the French resort of La Clusaz, offering an insight into the real people who keep the mountains safe.

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



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