Julie Pomagalski, a two-time Olympian for France in snowboarding and a former world champion, was killed in an avalanche in the Swiss Alps on Tuesday, French sports officials said on Wednesday. She was 40.
The accident occurred in the canton of Uri, according to the Swiss authorities, who said that Ms. Pomagalski was among a group of four people who had been freeriding on a mountain, Gemsstock, when a slab of snow broke loose for unexplained reasons. Freeriding is snowboarding or skiing on ungroomed backcountry terrain, in contrast to a course.
Three of them were swept away by the avalanche, with two dying and one person hospitalized, a police report said. The French ski federation identified the other person who was killed as Bruno Cutelli, a guide and a mountain rescue unit member.
A helicopter and two search dogs responded to the mountain, but Ms. Pomagalski and Mr. Cutelli had been completely buried by the time they arrived, the authorities said.
France’s Olympic organization expressed its condolences Wednesday on Twitter.
“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.
Ms. Pomagalski, who was from the resort town of Méribel in the French Alps, competed in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and at the Turin Games in Italy in 2006. Both times, she finished sixth in the women’s giant parallel slalom.
One of her greatest sports feats came in 1999, when she won the world championship in snowboard cross.
According to the European Avalanche Warning Services, 85 people have been killed in avalanches across the continent so far in the 2020-21 season. Europe averages about 100 avalanche fatalities annually, the organization said.
In the United States, it has been a particularly perilous year in terms of avalanches, which have killed at least 35 people, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which tracks fatalities in every state. The total number of fatalities for all of last season was 23.
Ms. Pomagalski was born Oct. 10, 1980, in La Tronche, France, which is near Grenoble. Details about her survivors were not immediately available.
She came from a line of alpine sporting enthusiasts.
In 1934, her grandfather Jean Pomagalski, a 29-year-old engineer at the time, invented the first surface lift in Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps, according to a history of the Poma Group, a company he founded. The lift carried skiers about 705 feet and a vertical distance of about 210 feet, according to the company’s website. The Poma lift name became widely associated with chair lifts.