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Why was the group on a closed black run?
Thursday January 14, 2016 - Email this article to a friend

That is the key question to be answered by investigators of the Les2Alpes avalanche. But it is not quite as simple as it seems. PlanetSKI reports.

The investigation team from Grenoble began its work on Thursday and is now in the resort to carry out an exhaustive enquiry.

Heavy snow is hapering the investigation at the scene and transforming the landscape.

They have visited the scene of the avalanche and spoken to some of those involved in the rescue operation and eye witnesses.

For our news report on the accident with all the latest details then see here.

The teacher who led the group faces multiple manslaughter charges.

The 47-year-old sports teacher remains in hospital with head injuries and a fractured elbow and faces a manslaughter investigation.

A 14-year old boy and 16-year old girl died in the accident.

They were from Lycée Saint-Exupéry in Lyon.

Sports staff regularly run day trips to the nearby ski slopes on Wednesdays.

There are strict rules in France for who can, and cannot, take groups of people round the ski slopes.

There are numerous ongoing court cases against British tour operators and the Ski Club of Great Britain on exactly this issue.

Only qualified ski instructors are allowed to lead groups on the slopes of France - but some groups are exempt.

School teachers - along with members of the Armed Forces and Civil Servants.   

They do not need to go through the rigorous training demanded by French Law.  Indeed teachers need no formal training at all, but just have to register with the relevant authorities. Then they can go skiing with school groups.

Some are now questioning whether this is a suitable state of affairs. 

Reports say he went down the same run with the children earlier in the day.

It seems the teacher will take the blame in this incident, but maybe the system is at fault.

The school teacher who led the group may have been a qualified instructor, we do not know the full details at this stage, but he wasn't required to be.

Under current law a British teacher can lead groups on the slopes in France under recognition of each country's rules, but a British ski instructor cannot do so unless he or she has the highest qualification.

Teachers for the UK undergo a short course for insurance and safety purposes, but it is nothing like the courses ski instructors need to complete.

The run in question, in the Bellecombes sector, had been closed all season.

First reports said there was no netting across the top of the run but the resort insisted there was on Thursday.

The group may have cut in below the start.

The Prosecutor has already indicated another group above the schoolchildren may have triggered the avalanche.

The Ukranian man who also died was not part of the school group.

When skiing off piste people should always keep their eyes above and below them, but many do not.

The run had been shut all season mainly due to a lack of snow, as it is very rocky, rather than the danger of avalanche.

However there have been heavy snowfalls in Les2Alpes and these have been accompanied by high winds so the avalanche risk was very real on Wednesday.

It was at level 3 on a scale of 5.

The avalanche was 20m wide and 300m long and ended up in a terrain trap thus making it worse.

There is also a culture in the Alps for some to ignore closed runs and simply ski them. 

Their insurance is invalidated, but many don't know that, and the rule is not policed.

Some safety groups call for the confiscation of lift passes or fines should people ski on closed runs.

The trouble is sometimes runs are closed not for safety reason but because the resort wants to save the snow.

This was evident in December this year before the crowds arrived for Xmas - some resorts closed runs as they wanted to save what little snow they had.

It is not in the brief of the enquiry to look at the culture of some people ignoring closed runs, but perhaps it should be.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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