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Olympic Snowboarder and a Mountain Guide Die in Avalanche

Julie Pomagalski and Bruno Cutelli were killed in an avalanche in Switzerland this week

World champion snowboarder and former Olympian Julie Pomagalski has died in an avalanche at the age of 40. She was killed along with Bruno Cutelli, a mountain guide, according to a statement from the French Ski Federation published Wednesday, expressing its condolences to the pair’s loved ones. The avalanche took place on Gemmstock peak in Switzerland.

The two deceased individuals were “completely buried” by snow. “For them, any help came too late,” said police in the statement. A third skier was injured and flown to hospital and a fourth was above the avalanche and not harmed.

Local police published a statement confirming the death of two unidentified individuals in an avalanche Tuesday. The reason for the avalanche is not known, said police, who sent a rescue team including a helicopter and two avalanche search dogs.

Pomagalski was born near Grenoble but lived in the ski town of Meribel, where she ran a sports shop and a ski school. She was the granddaughter of Jean Pomagalski, who set up Poma, a manufacturer of cable-driven lift systems such as chairlifts and gondolas.

In 1999, Pomagalski was a teenager when she became the world champion in snowboard cross. In 2004, she won the Snowboard World Cup and represented France at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin, Italy, in 2006. Watch her 2004 win below.

The French Olympic Committee (CNOSF) also addressed Pomagalski’s passing. The tragic disappearance of Julie, world champion snowboarder and Olympian, leaves the French Olympic team mourning one of its own,” it said in a tweet. France’s sports minister Roxana Maracineanu also tweeted her condolences Wednesday. “Too young to leave us,” wrote Maracineanu. “Her golden generation left its mark on French snowboarding.”

It’s been a tragic year for avalanche deaths, as more than 30 highly experienced backcountry skiers/boarders have died. Earlier this week, we reported about pro Luca Pandolfi’s avalanche death and last month, Squamish climber Dave Henkel, 45, was killed after getting caught in the Poop Chutes in Whister, read more about the accident here. The week before that, top Italian climber and skier Carlalberto “Cala” Cimenti, 45, and his partner Patrick Negro, died in an avalanche near Cima del Bosco in Italy. Read more about the accident here. And in early February, eight highly experienced skiers died in avalanches in Colorado and Utah, read about it here.

Always check avalanche conditions before you head out. Visit Avalanche Canada here for more info.

Snowboard Cross 2004