Olympic snowboarder killed in Swiss Alps avalanche
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Julie Pomagalski, a former Olympic snowboarder and world champion from France, was killed in an avalanche in the Swiss Alps on Tuesday.

According to The Associated press, Pomagalski, who competed in the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Turin, Italy, respectively, died at age 40, the French ski federation announced on Wednesday, without specifying the location of her death.

Authorities from Uri, Switzerland, reported that Pomagalski was in a group of four people who were freeriding on Gemsstock mountain, meaning they were on backcountry terrain instead of on a course. 

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As the group went down the mountain before noon, a slab of snow broke loose for unknown reasons, sweeping away three of the people and resulting in two deaths and one hospitalization, a police report translated by The New York Times said. 

The French ski federation said the other person killed was Bruno Cutelli, a guide and a mountain rescue unit member. 

Officials activated a search party, including a helicopter and two search dogs, but said Pomagalski and Cutelli had already been buried upon their arrival, and “any help came too late for them,” according to the AP. 

France’s Olympic organization mourned Pomagalski’s death in a Wednesday tweet.  

“The tragic death of Julie, snowboard world champion and Olympian, leaves the France OLY team in mourning for one of their own,” the organization said.

In both the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics, Pomagalski finished sixth in the women’s giant parallel slalom. She won first place in the world championship in snowboard cross in 1999 and earned a silver medal in the women's parallel giant slalom at the 2003 world championships.

The European Avalanche Warning Services reports 86 people have died in avalanches in Europe during the 2020-21 season. The average number of avalanche deaths per year on the continent is 100.