This Day In History: February 10

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On February 10, 1970, an avalanche crashes down on a ski resort in Val d’Isere, France, killing 42 people, mostly young skiers. This disaster was the worst such incident in French history.

The resort at Val d’Isere was operated by a nonprofit youth organization and attracted many young ski enthusiasts. On the morning of February 10, most of the guests were eating breakfast in a large room facing the mountain. Suddenly, there was an explosion-like sound and approximately 100,000 cubic yards of snow came rushing down the mountain. Three trail workers who were on the hill were swept away and killed.

The young people inside the hotel had little time to react. The snow exploded through the hotel’s large windows and swallowed the crowd inside. Some people were thrown down hallways and through windows. Others were buried so deeply 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 100 yards high in some spots.

Thirty-nine people inside the hotel lost their lives to the avalanche and 60 more suffered serious injuries. French President Georges Pompidou declared it a national tragedy, and authorities ordered evacuations of other resorts in the region. This proved to be a wise move, as other avalanches followed in the next few days. In fact, the abandoned hotel at Val d’Isere was struck again two days later.