A two-time Olympic snowboarder and former world champion in the sport died Tuesday in an avalanche in the Swiss Alps. Julie Pomagalski, who competed in the 2002 and 2006 winter games, was 40, the New York Times reports. She and three others were freeriding (riding on ungroomed terrain in the backcountry) on Gemsstock mountain when a slab of snow came loose, sweeping three people away. Pomagalski and a guide, Bruno Cutelli, who was also a member of a mountain rescue unit, were killed; they had been completely buried by snow by the time responders arrived. The third person was hospitalized; People reports that victim was only slightly injured.
"The tragic death of Julie, snowboard world champion and Olympian, leaves the France OLY team in mourning for one of their own," France's Olympic organization said Wednesday. Avalanches kill an average of 100 people per year in Europe; so far this season, the number of fatalities is 85. Pomagalski's grandfather invented the first surface lift to carry skiers in Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps in 1934. (Read more avalanche stories.)