One mountain guide is dead and another injured after an avalanche buried the pair during safety checks for the upcoming Freeride World Tour stop in Vallnord Ordino-Arcalís, Andorra.
The incident occurred around 12 p.m. local time (3 a.m. PST) on Thursday in the freeride zone of Baser Negre, the intended venue of the third stop of the FWT. One of the guides, a 32-year-old from Chamonix, France, was partially buried and sustained a knee injury. The other, a 34-year-old Spaniard working with Andorra’s Grandvalira Mountain Guides was fully buried despite deploying an airbag, according to La Vanguardia. While rescue crews were able to dig the man out and airlift him in critical condition, he was pronounced dead at Nostra Senyora de Meritxell Hospital, according to an official statement by the Freeride World Tour. The victim’s name was Borja Ayed.
After over a foot of snow fell on the area in two days followed by warming and rain, avalanche hazard in the Arcalís area had been raised to considerable (danger level four out of five) by Andorra's official meteorology department. Additionally, low visibility from clouds and lingering fog affected slopes and hampered rescue efforts in the tight mountain valley. Because the venue was in a closed section of the resort with no lift or base access, both victims had to be airlifted from the scene.
The deadly incident is the first recorded during a FWT event since Ryan Hawks succumbed to injuries sustained in a 2011 competition at Kirkwood Resort in California (Elwyn Roy Freeman died in a Freeride World Qualifier event in Argentina in 2016). The Tour is no stranger to tragedy however, as both skier Matilda Rapaport and world champion snowboarder Estelle Balet lost their lives to avalanches outside of competition in 2016.
The third stop of the 2018 competition circuit was scheduled for Saturday, but the FWT announced the event would be on hold until further notice. Our thoughts go out to the Andorran ski community and everyone involved with the FWT stop in Ordino-Arcalís.