Julie Pomagalski, a French snowboarder who represented her country at the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics, died in an avalanche on Tuesday, the French ski federation announced Wednesday. She was 40.
According to The New York Times, Pomagalski had been snowboarding with a group of four people on the Gemsstock mountain in the Swiss Alps when a slab of snow broke loose for unexplained reasons. The group had been freeriding, which is moving through natural, ungroomed terrain outside of a typical mountain course.
Pomagalski and another member of the group, Bruno Cutelli, were completely buried when authorities arrived with a helicopter and search dogs. One other person was reportedly hospitalized after being swept away.
The French Olympic team addressed the tragedy in a tweet, saying the team is in mourning:
All thoughts of the France Olympique team and the CNOSF go to Julie Pomagalski's family, to those close to her, to @FedFranceSki. The tragic death of Julie, snowboard world champion and Olympian, leaves the France OLY team in mourning for one of their own.
Born in La Tronche, France, Pomagalski came from a line of ski and snowboard enthusiasts, and soon reached the top of the world stage. At the age of 19, she won the world championship in snowboard cross in 1999, then won a silver in the parallel giant slalom at the 2003 world championships.
Pomagalski was a two-time Olympian, finishing sixth in the parallel giant slalom in both the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and the 2006 Olympics in Turin.
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