Brit Snowboarder Fights For Life After Fall

Peter Allen, in Paris
Brit Snowboarder Fights For Life After Fall

A British woman is fighting for life after a snowboarding accident in the French Alps - with her family saying she will need a "miracle" to pull through.

Emily Watts, known as Mimi, fell headfirst into a snowdrift and was stuck for about 45 minutes following the fall in Chamonix at 4pm on Saturday.

By the time paramedics arrived the 26-year-old from Suffolk had suffered a cardiac arrest - raising fears of brain damage.

She was evacuated to hospital in nearby Annecy, before being transferred to a specialist unit.

No other skier was thought to be involved as Miss Watts came off her board and "fell down a steep incline" at high speed, local police reported.

Her family learned of the accident on Sunday morning.

Miss Watts' mother Nicky McAllister, father Dominic Watts and brother Rory left the country immediately to be at her bedside.

They visited the scene of the fall on Tuesday to speak to local officials about the accident.

Miss Watts' aunt, Shona Pollock, described her niece as "heavenly" and as someone with a "passion for life".

Ms Pollock said Miss Watts had been living and working in Brighton and decided to work the ski season in Chamonix before starting an MA in graphic design next year.

She said she had travelled out alone, but had a friend already out there, and was on the slopes with a group of people when the accident happened.

Ms Pollock said: "She is not very well I am afraid. She is still alive, but she is not very well. The family are at her bedside, they are all there.

"We don't know exactly what happened at the moment, but we believe she was snowboarding on piste and they tend to do little jumps, not great big Olympic ones, but she was on the piste and went into a snow fall and suffocated. That is what they think, but nobody quite knows for sure.

"She is still on a life support machine but that is not for long. It looks as though she won't recover, sadly."

French police had been unable to notify the family for a day as Miss Watts did not have any identification on her, only her mobile phone which was locked, she continued.

Authorities said weather conditions had been good and that snow had been falling for most of Saturday.

Miss Watts went to a convent school in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, before studying costume design at Sussex University.

The experienced snowboarder had only been in France for a few weeks and was working at the resort.

Ms Pollock, who runs a catering company in Barnes, southwest London, said: "She went out there because she is a passionate snowboarder. I think Saturday was the first day of the season.

"Mimi is heavenly, she's the nicest girl you could ever meet. She had worked really hard all summer to go.

"She was a brilliant snowboarder, it is just one of those tragic, awful accidents."

The aunt said her family were not hopeful for a recovery but were waiting for doctors to update them.

Ms Pollock added: "Short of a miracle I just don't think it is going to happen. She had 45 minutes on the mountain with her heart stopped."

Miss Watts, who had been a keen horserider and raced Shetland ponies when she was younger, was in Les Grand Montets, the largest pisted skiing area in the Chamonix Valley, when she fell.

Ms Pollock said: "She was always absolutely full of life, and very bright, clever and pretty, she had everything going for her.

"She was looked after superbly there by police, mountain rescue and the hospital, they were terrific.

"It was just an unusual, unlucky, tragic accident and no-one really knows what happened. She had all the right kit on."

Miss Watts suffered the cardiac arrest while rescuers were struggling to reach her at the top of the Pierre a Ric run.

Spokesmen for local hospitals said they were unable to immediately provide further information.

Les Grand Montets is situated above Argentiere and measures more than 1,800 hectares in size.

It is hugely popular with British tourists, and offers some of the hardest pistes in Europe.