In disheartening news out of Europe, 21-year-old Swiss snowboarder Estelle Balet, who’d just captured her second world title on the Freeride World Tour, was killed in an avalanche on the border of Switzerland and France while filming. The avalanche reportedly occurred above Orsières, a Swiss municipality at the foot of Mount Blanc. The terrain is varied, with much of it in the high-alpine, featuring serious ski/snowboard mountaineering routes and long fall lines.
Reports out of the region have Balet going second on the line she was riding, following a partner down a narrow, rocky slope, triggering a “one-kilometre avalanche” which carried her out of control down the mountain (below). Apparently, she was wearing avalanche gear including a transceiver, airbag and helmet. Unfortunately she died at the scene. An investigation is ongoing. She grew up nearby (Orsières is part of the Swiss state of Valais).
The Freeride World Tour released a statement on its Facebook page: “The Freeride community has experienced a tremendous loss today as we learned that one of the most hopeful young talents and current snowboard World Champion, Estelle Balet, has tragically passed away in an avalanche. The (slide) occurred earlier this morning in the canton of Valais.
Estelle was a naturally gifted, shining star and demonstrated remarkable talent as she quickly became a household name on the Freeride World Tour, bringing home her second title as World Champion just a few weeks ago in Verbier.”
In a heart breaking quote to the Swiss media, her father, Eric Balet called her “a real ray of sunshine. She lived her life with passion, it’s all gone so quickly.”
Balet had a bright future on the Tour, which promotes big mountain skiing and snowboarding, judging athletes on line choice, flow and style in some of the heaviest terrain in the world.
This story was updated with photo details and further reaction at 12:45 pm PST.