• Caitlin Kennedy

Remembering the UCPA Avalanche

We look back at a tragedy that beset the town, 50 years on.

50 years ago this week, on 10th February 1970, Mother Nature struck Val d’Isère causing one of the most deadly avalanches the Alps had seen in recent history. The extremely heavy snowfall from the preceding week had accumulated two meters of fresh snow on the South facing slopes of Le Grand Gorge at the top of town. At 8am, the slope released its burden at an altitude of 2,960 meters from the Pointe du Front, causing a colossal avalanche that rampaged down into the valley, across the Isère river, and into the UCPA building. The breakfast room, where over a hundred young people were eating, was instantaneously filled with snow as the windows smashed, unable to withstand the gigantic force.

Some people were thrown down hallways and through windows. Others were buried so deep that they could not move at all. Outside, the snow pushed cars right off the road and blocked access to the hotel. The snow was almost 10m high in some places. 39 people couldn’t escape the grips of the snow and lost their lives. A further 40 were badly injured. Approximately 75,000 cubic meters of snow had come down the mountain and three trail workers up on the hill, were also swept away and killed.