A 21-year-old Swiss snowboarding champion was killed in an avalanche in the Swiss Alps. “Estelle Balet 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,” the Freeride World Tour said in a statement.
“I feel a huge sadness, a feeling of bitterness and above all solidarity with her family and friends,” said Freeride World Tour founder Nicolas Hale-Woods. “It is a reminder that no matter how well prepared you are, taking part in freeride in the mountains has an element of uncertainty.”
Balet was following another snowboarder, who was not injured, when she was caught by the avalanche, the police said. Emergency workers were summoned shortly after 8am, and Air Glaciers, an air ambulance service, arrived on the scene and extracted her from the snow. Efforts to revive her were unsuccessful.
Balet had special safety equipment, including an airbag, and she was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Safety equipment doesn’t replace common sense and proper slope selection. Unfortunately all to often athletes are pushed to create the most extreme footage possible and take unnecessary risks doing so.
Balet was a champion in freeriding, a style of snowboarding that occurs on natural terrain, without a predefined course. It eschews jumps, rails, half-pipes and other features of traditional competitive skiing, and it is generally considered more dangerous.
Two days ago, Ms. Balet had posted an image of the Alps on Facebook and wrote: “Pretty awesome to get to snowboard with such a view! Can’t wait for more filming next week.” The film project was called “Exploring the Known.”