Freerider Luca Pandolfi Killed in Avalanche

Mountain Skiing
Photo: Jeremy Jones

“No way out” once the slide began

Freeride champion Luca Pandolfi died yesterday in an avalanche in the Alps while splitboarding in the Gran San Bernardo Valley, Italy.

L’Unione Sardia reported that the 47-year-old snowboarder “launched into his umpteenth breathtaking descent, but this time an avalanche dragged him down the valley, leaving him no way out.”

He and his business partner were attempting to descend a 1,900m gully. Recent heavy snow had boosted the avalanche danger to high in the days prior and was still considerable when the pair tackled their descent.

Pandolfi, an Italian who lived just across the border in Chamonix, began first. After a few turns, the avalanche began and the gully filled with cascading snow that swept him down with it.

His friend, who had left after Pandolfi and remained above the slide, saw the devastating events unfold. The avalanche had torn off Pandolfi’s beacon, but the canine unit of the Valle d’Aosta Alpine Rescue later found the body.

Pandolfi was an icon for the freeride world. His passion for snowboarding began fairly late, at the age of 18. “Snow is my way of expressing myself, improving myself,” he once said.

Known for his extreme descents, he had run peaks around the world, from the Andes to the Himalaya. He described his descent of Gran Couloir de la Brenva, Mont Blanc in 2013 as “a journey to another dimension”.

Gran San Bernardo Valley. Photo: Flavio Dalle


About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around parts of Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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Don Paul
Don Paul
10 months ago

I bought a splitboard when I lived in Colorado and had endless places I could do this. Some of the mountain passes get snowed in for the winter, you go as far as you can, park, and then snowboard. But after reading about transponders and what back country skiing accidents are like, I decided it was over the line for me. When they get caught in avalanches, it’s mostly a matter of luck and you’ll suffocate in 10 minutes if you’re not dug out.