Recalling when skiers were eating breakfast and an avalanche enveloped the hotel

100,000 cubic yards of snow barrelled down the French Alps.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


On Tuesday, Feb. 10, 1970, at 8:05 am, a major avalanche crashed through Val d’Isere, a ski resort in the French Alps.

The avalanche was caused by the unseasonably mild temperatures. The above-freezing temperatures loosened the snow on the hill's surface and intense winds blew 100,000 cubic yards of snow down the mountain.

That morning, young skiers were eating breakfast in a large room that was facing the mountains. One of those skiers was 25-year-old Jean Charles Loos.

Loos said that “There was a gay, happy atmosphere at the dining tables...We were talking about where we would go skiing."

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And then he said that “Suddenly, there was this rumbling sound. As the noise became deafening, I realized it was an avalanche. I just had time to dive against the wall for protection. Then a great wall of snow burst through the door and hit me. I was submerged and I remember no more until I woke up in a neighbouring house.”

There were three trail workers on the hill who were immediately killed.

Most people in the hotel didn't have time to react as the snow came rushing down the mountain and through the building.

People were thrust down through windows. Other people were buried and unable to move. The snow created a 100-yard high barrier around the hotel, blocking access to the building.

Inside the hotel, 39 people were killed and 60 suffered serious injuries.

A Swiss Avalanche Research Centre reported that this incident was the worst avalanche disaster in Europe since 1900.

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Local French authorities are responsible for avalanche protection. Melchior Schild, the head of the civil avalanche service in Switzerland, said that France's avalanche protection and evacuation procedures were haphazard and amateurish.

To hear more about this tragic avalanche, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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