Search and rescue efforts by PGHM
© PGHM CHamonixSearch and rescue efforts by PGHM
A British mother and son have lost their lives in an avalanche at the iconic Mont-Blanc massif in France on Thursday, December 28, 2023. The pair were traveling together with three other family members in a guided group with a ski instructor. In total three of the six skiers were swept away by the avalanche and buried. The third skier that was swept away and buried by the avalanche was the instructor who was the only skier wearing an avalanche beacon. He survived with mild injuries.

The avalanche occurred around 3:40 p.m. in a popular off-piste area in the Saint-Gervais-les-Bains ski area of the Mont-Blanc massif. The avalanche started at an altitude of approximately 2,400 meters (7,874 feet) near the Mont-Joly chairlift and went down around 400 meters (1,312 feet).

A major search and rescue system was initiated by the Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne de Chamonix Mont-blanc ('PGHM') of Chamonix. The avalanche rescue team worked into the night trying to find and extract all victims of the avalanche. Unfortunately, all help came too late for the British mother, aged 54, and her 22-year-old son. The father was reportedly part of the ski group but was uninjured.

According to the initial investigation by officials at Haute-Savoie, the avalanche was triggered by two other skiers traversing a little higher on the slope. A full investigation will be conducted to determine the exact circumstances of this tragedy by the Bonneville prosecutor's office.
"Mont-Joly is a mountain that is open to alpine skiing but has very steep slopes and is unfortunately very popular with off-piste skiers. Today, it was not the time to go off-piste."
โ€” Jean-Marc Peillex, Mayor of Saint-Gervais-Les Bains
In April 2023, an avalanche killed six people at the Armancette glacier, near Mont Blanc in south-eastern France.

Somewhere around 100 people are caught in avalanches in France every year.

About 30 people die in avalanches in France each year.