A British snowboarder who suffocated after falling headfirst into a snowdrift in the Alps may have been buried for half an hour before he was discovered, French authorities have said.
The 25-year-old had been working a season in the resort of Meribel and was found off-piste in the Allues area of the mountains.
It is believed that he was not able to release himself from his board.
A spokesman for the Alps mountain rescue told the Press Association it was hard to say how long he could have been stuck, but estimated it might have been as long as 30 minutes.
He said: "The snowboarder was alone when he fell. He was spotted by two witnesses skiing nearby who noticed a snowboard sticking out of the snow about 20 metres from the piste.
"They then realised that someone might be attached to the board."
He said the two witness had called for help before trying to reach the young man themselves and lift him out of the snow.
"It was very difficult for them. He was buried up to his pelvis and the snow was very heavy, very compacted."
He added that mountain rescue services had arrived within minutes but by the time they arrived he was in cardiac arrest.
He said that the incident was still being investigated, and an inquest has been opened under the jurisdiction of the nearby town of Albertville.
In January this year, Britons Oscar Cassagneau-Francis and Rajen Mahendra, both 26, were killed after falling hundreds of metres in an off-piste area while skiing in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc.
In February, another British skier was killed when he and two friends ran into difficulty after venturing off-piste in the Alpe d'Huez ski resort region of the central French western Alps.