An extreme snowboarding champion was killed yesterday when an avalanche swept her 800 metres down the mountain while she was filming a dangerous descent in the Swiss Alps.
Estelle Balet, 21, the reigning women’s world champion of the Freeride World Tour, was filming near the peak of Le Portalet, a mountain in the Mont Blanc massif in the Swiss canton of Valais, when she was struck by the avalanche.
Swiss police said that rescuers who arrived by helicopter tried to revive her but she was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
Another snowboarder had preceded her down a corridor near the peak of the mountain but Balet had been unable to escape when the avalanche came down behind her.
“She was aiming to board a 150-metre stretch of the corridor at the top of the mountain,” said Jean-Marie Bornet, a spokesman for Valais police. “It was extreme boarding but the slope wasn’t exceptionally steep. It would have been a miracle if she had survived a fall like that.”
Mr Bornet said that Balet, who was Swiss, hit rocks at the end of her fall. “She must have suffered a very severe impact from the rocks but spring snow is very heavy, like cement, so the inquiry has yet to establish the cause of death.”
She had taken every precaution and was equipped with a tracking device, an airbag and a helmet.
Nicolas Hale-Woods, the founder of the Freeride World Tour, expressed his sorrow and sympathy for the snowboarder’s family. “It is a reminder that no matter how well prepared you are, taking part in freeride in the mountains has an element of uncertainty,” he said.
On Sunday Balet posted a spectacular photograph on her Facebook page showing a snowboarder descending a pristine Alpine slope with the comment: “Pretty awesome to get to snowboard with such a view!! I can’t wait for more filming next week.”