Former Vail Mountain School student caught in avalanche in Switzerland |

Former Vail Mountain School student caught in avalanche in Switzerland

Emily Franciose.
Francoise family/Courtesy photo

Emily Franciose, who attended Vail Mountain School from kindergarten up until last year, has been identified as the missing American teenager caught in a large avalanche Tuesday in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland that also killed an 18-year-old British classmate.

Vail Mountain School issued a statement Friday confirming the news.  

“Emily was a beloved member of the VMS family, known for her spiritedness, kindness and friendship,” the school said. “Her loss is deeply felt by all those who knew her, and our hearts go out to the Franciose family during this difficult time.”

The statement also said that VMS is in communication with the Franciose family, and will find the appropriate time and setting to honor Franciose’s memory as a community.

“We extend our sympathies to all those who have been touched by the Franciose family’s extraordinary community spirit and to everyone who loved and felt loved by Emily,” the school wrote.

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Steve Bileca, who is in his first year as head of school for VMS, described Franciose as an “extraordinary young woman and a friend to all.”

“She was one of those kids, who, when she walked into a room, simply exuded kindness and interest in others,” Bileca said.

Franciose began attending VMS as a kindergartner in 2010 and was a student there through her 11th-grade year before opting to spend her senior year at the Ecole d’Humanité, a prestigious boarding school in Switzerland.

“Our community knew her as a spirited, adventurous, very dear girl, who wanted an outdoor adventure for her senior year,” Bileca said.

Even though she’d left VMS as a student, Bileca said Franciose had made a point of seeking him out when she visited the school earlier this academic year to introduce herself. Bileca also said Franciose was due to return to the valley next week for her spring break and had asked to volunteer to go on a hut trip with VMS middle schoolers as a senior class mentor.

Bileca said school leadership first learned of the news Tuesday night and began immediately preparing to support students and staff during the day Wednesday when upper school students were slated to have conferences with parents. The school had its own counseling staff on hand for support and also brought in additional counselors from Your Hope Center.

Franciose and classmates were on a school trip to the Bernese Alps when the 2,000-foot-wide avalanche broke on the Gstelliwang slope in Bern, Switzerland, running more than 2,500 feet in length, according to reports. Swiss rescue teams recovered Franciose’s backpack but have yet to recover her body.

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