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THE STORM PASSES - James Cove, PlanetSKI Editor
Sunday December 31, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

Up to 2m of snow has fallen in parts of the Alps and now the clear up operation gets underway with some resorts re-opening. UPDATED





Many of the resorts that were closed on Thursday now have some limited lifts running as the huge clear up operation continues.

Tignes, Val d'Isere, Les Arcs and others have some lifts running after the total shutdown of yesterday.

Val Thorens, FranceVal Thorens, France














Courchevel, FranceCourchevel, France


And the digging out gets underway.

Here is a chalet in La Plagne run by the UK operator, Skiworld.

More images and videos of the wild weather are being posted.

Here is one of the most striking that comes from Montafon in Austria.

See here for the latest images of the snow in a separate story on PlanetSKI.

And check out all the latest details in our weekly snow report that looks at the weather across the Alps, and elsewhere, country by county.


Storm Eleanor lashed out across Europe causing widespread disruption across the Alps.

The storm led to the death of a skier in the Haute-Savoie region of France in the resort of Morillon who was hit by a falling tree.

The 21-year old skier has not been named.

He was skiing with two companions who were not injured.

In Italy a mother and her 11-year old daughter have been killed by an avalanche in the Trentino-Alto Adige region that borders Austria.

The 100m-wide avalanche occured at an altitude of 2,100 meters in the Belpiano-Malga San Valentino ski resort in the Venosta Valley.

The two victims had been skiing on a piste with another seven others.

The remainder were rescued.

Poor weather hampered the rescue operation and the emergency services had to reach the scene on skis rather than by helicopter.

They managed to dig the 45-year-old woman and her child out, but the was pronounced dead at the scene. The mother died shortly after in hospital.

The avalanche risk in parts of Italy is 4 on a scale of 5.

Across the main resorts in France the avalanche risk is 5.

Here at PlanetSKI we have been thinking hard and cannot remember a time when the level was so high across such a large area of the Alps.


In Tignes people were told to stay indoors and not to venture out under any circumstances first thing on Thursday morning as the authorities dealt with the huge amount of snow that had fallen overnight.

Tignes, Thursday AMTignes, Thursday AM
















A series of controlled avalanches were set off and shortly after 11AM on Thursday people were allowed to leave their accomodation.

The ski area on Tignes remains closed and all access roads are shut.

Neighbouring Val d'Isere is also shut and the road down to Bourg has been closed for fear of avalanches across the road.

This video was posted on the Val d'Isere Ski Instructors Facebook page with the message "Avalanche live and direct behind my building!!  Stay home!!"

In Val d'Isere the ski patrol is out detonating avalanches after the heavy overnight snow.

This report from the resort comes from the Facebook page of Simply Val d'Isere:

Val d'Isere, FranceVal d'Isere, France




















In Europe's highest ski resort of Val Thorens in France, skiers were confined to their chalets and apartments overnight due to the dangerous winds.

At 7.30pm Val Thorens put out the following statement on Facebook highlighting the high avalanche risk of 5/5.

Val Thorens - avalanche risk remains extreme 5/5Val Thorens - avalanche risk remains extreme 5/5 (facebook)












People were allowed to leave their accomodation on Thursday morning, but the access road remains closed and the avalanche risk remains 5/5.

Here are some images from Val Thorens of the clear up operation in town.

Val Thorens, FranceVal Thorens, France














Val Thorens, FranceVal Thorens, France














The access roads to Les Arcs remain shut with the majority of the ski area it shares with La Plagne closed.

Roads in La Plagne remain shut and this evening there were special convoys of traffic for people to move around.

"The roundabout road from 1800 - Bellecote to Belle Plagnen remains closed tonight to traffic," said a statement form the resort.

There were two special convoys for personal vehicles t 17:30 - 18:30  and 19:30-20:30

Outside these hours vehicles were banned.

Here is the situation in Avoriaz: 

"The climatic conditions of the last few hours make the snow cover extremely unstable with a maximum avalanche risk 5/5 and still high winds. All high areas will remain closed today. Priority is given to the safety of skiers and the area," said a statement from Avoriaz on Facebook.


In Switzerland, strong wind blew a train carriage off its tracks - 8 people were injured.

Swiss police say several people were stuck inside a cable car in the ski resort of Pizol in the Swiss Alps.

The power to 14,000 homes in the country was cut off &  wind gusts of 195km/h were recorded near the city of Lucerne.

Elsewhere in Switzerland high winds left several people stranded in a ski lift in St Gallen canton, overturned a light airplane in Stans and snapped a 13m Christmas tree in the capital Bern.

The storm meant flights were cancelled in and out of Zurich and Basel airports.

A lorry was blown over on a Swiss motorway.

Thousands of households around Lake Zurich were left without power, and firefighters have been dealing with flooding and trees that have been blown over.

The avalanche danger in much of the Swiss Alps is at 4 out of 5.

"A very critical avalanche situation will be encountered over a wide area," said the Thursday bulletin from the Swiss Avalanche Institute in Davos.

Avalanche danger is Swiss AlpsAvalanche danger is Swiss Alps


















In Austria more than 20 skiers had to be rescued from cable car in Kitzbühel after a gust dislodged an empty car.

In Ischgl trees have blown down across the pistes.

Powerful winds

And spare a thought for these people on a chairlift in Montafon.

And watch the brave rescue of the skiers stranded on swinging chairs in Gaschurn Montafon, Voralberg, in the video below:

A group of British skiers were stuck in a cable car at Valtournenche, northern Italy on Wednesday.

Once the storm passes it will leave some very dangerous off piste conditions and some great skiing - but pretty much only at altitude.

The warm temperatures in the Alps means it is raining heavily in many ski resorts especially at resort level.

The freezing level has been fluctuating around the the 2,000m mark with torrential rain in many resorts.  Last night the freezing level fell to 1,100m and today it is up to 2,300m.

However given the huge amounts of snow that have already fallen it will not be washing away the snow in the low-level resorts.

Wet but still smilingWet but still smiling





















The latest snowstorm is coming in with high winds closing many lifts in parts of the French Alps and western Switzerland.

Resorts such as Les Arcs, La Plagne, Val d'Isere, Tignes, Alpe d'Huez, Avoriaz, Valmorel, Chamonix, Meribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens are virtually closed.

Here is the scene at Courchevel:

Here was the warning on Wednesday from Tignes in France:

STORM and SNOW ALERT - Strong winds are expected in the coming days as well as lots of snow 80cm/19in for today and 2m/79in in 48h.

Please be extremely cautious on the ski area as well as on the road.

- The risk of avalanches is very high (4/5 to 5/5). Stay on the open slopes. No off-piste.

It is a similar scene in neighbouring Val d'Isere and you don't have to understand French to see what is going on here:

An avalanche has come across the road from Val d'Isere to Le Fornet.

The image below was posted by PlanetSKI reader, Steve Angus, on Twitter.

Avalanche across the road c/o Steve AngusAvalanche across the road c/o Steve Angus
















"Huge avalanche across the road to #fornet. Road closed. Stay safe people," said Steve.

People are being urged to avoid travel unless absolutely necessary.

In the resorts of Les3Vallees in France many lifts are closed on Wednesday and in the highest resort, Val Thorens, people are being urged to be very careful if they have to venture out:

- Move away from roofs to avoid to snowfall
- Do not move alone 
- Avoid staying near embankments including in the resort
- Do not walk behind buildings.

In Les Arcs people are being urged not to leave the resort and to place their cars under cover if they can - just a handful of lifts are running.

Lower down the mountains it is raining heavily. In Les Arcs it is +3ºC at 1,200m.

"It's more like a wet and windy Wednesday in Wales at the moment with rain and strong winds," said PlanetSKI reporter, Alf Alderson, from Le Pre.

"That said we've had some fantastic skiing in between the storms and expect more of the same when this one passes. But everyone with any sense is bearing in mind the extreme avalanche risk and off piste options are limited for now," Alf added.

In the 4 Vallees area in Switzerland, that includes Verbier, winds are gusting up to 120km/hr.

"Anyone travelling in the western Alps on Wednesday or Thursday should be prepared for more disruption with the risk of road closures from both snow/avalanche danger higher up and flooding/landslides lower down," said the alpine weather expert, Fraser Wilkin, from

"The roads to the higher resorts of the Tarentaise will again be particularly vulnerable e.g. Val d'Isère, Tignes, Les Arcs, Val Thorens," Fraser added.

Last Saturday there were huge travel problems in parts of the Alps as a storm hit on the main and busy Christmas/New Year transfer day.

There is a high risk of avalanche in parts of the Alps.


In the latest avalanche accident a group of people were snow-shoeing in Kandersteg in the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland at a height of 2,650m on south-west slope when they were swept away.

Two of the three were dug out quickly by the rescue services and taken to hospital by helicopter but the third person, a man, died.

His body was found by an avalanche rescue dog and he was taken to hospital where he died.

It brings the total number of people who have died in avalanches in Switzerland this winter to six.

Elsewhere in Switzerland four ski tourers were hit by an avalanche at Piz Bevair in Graubunden and escaped uninjured.

Two Germans were buried in a separate incident in the canton and one of them remains in a critical condition in hospital.

There remains considerable danger of avalanche in large parts of Switzerland.

Swiss avalanche risk, Tuesday 2nd JanuarySwiss avalanche risk, Tuesday 2nd January
















And in the Pyrenees a Spaniard has died after hitting his head on a rock in a fall.

He was reported to be wearing a helmet.

A search was launched on Saturday evening after he failed to return after skiing.

The search was suspended during the night but resumed in the morning and the man's body was found off-piste.

Meanwhile investigation continue into the death of a  25-year old Frenchman who was killed at altitude in Val d'Isere last weekend.

He was part of a group of four ski tourers hiking to a mountain hut.

They were all buried in the slide but three managed to free themsleves and alert the rescue services.

The poor weather hampered the search operation and the man was eventually found and pronounced dead at the scene.

The accident happened at 5:30 pm, near the Fond des Fours refuge, in the heart of the Vanoise National Park.

The authorities are calling for extreme caution with the risk level put at 4 on a scale of 5 in parts of the resort.

In neighbouring Tignes it was at 5 at one point on Saturday.

Around 1m of snow has fallen at altitude in the Alps.

"In the coming days, the off-piste and tours in mountain areas are to be avoided.The avalanche risk is very important. It is better to avoid it," said a statement from the high mountain police.

There is a risk of 4 above 2,700m and between 4 and 3 below that altitude.

People should only venture away from the marked runs if they have the correct knowledge, all the right safety equipment and know how to use it.

Three people died in three separate accidents in Switzerland last week.

Avalanche scene Avalanche scene in Switzerland
















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