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‘Still Tied Together’: World Cup Skier, Girlfriend Die in 2,000-Foot Fall From Italian Mountain

The promising young athlete and his girlfriend were ski instructors enjoying a mountain they knew well when disaster struck.
pession arlian skiers accidentJean Daniel Pession and his girlfriend, Elisa Arlian, recently died while hiking; (photo/screenshot)
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A young Italian couple died together after taking a massive fall from an Italian mountain.

Professional skier Jean Daniel Pession, 28, and his girlfriend, Elisa Arlian, 27, have died in “a tragic mountain accident,” the Italian Winter Sports Federation reported Saturday.  

The two ski instructors were hiking up Mount Zerbion, an 8,921-foot mountain in Aosta Valley, Italy, when they suddenly plummeted more than 2,000 feet, according to a translated article from Italian publication RAI. After the couple’s families reported them missing, search-and-rescue teams headed to the mountain, where the bodies of Pession and Arlian were found in the snow, “still tied together,” RAI reported.

Pession, a native of Aosta Valley, was a talented skier who became a member of Italy’s World Cup team. In 2021, Pession placed 15th in the World Cup ranking, and came in 22nd place in the World Championships in Vars a year later.

“Two young lives broken by an accident in the mountains, that mountain which was their passion,” Alberto Bertin, president of the Valle Council, told RAI. “In this moment of profound sadness, we express our closeness to the families, friends and the entire sporting community, holding us close to them with affection and compassion.”

Few Details on Accident

It was unclear on Tuesday what exactly caused the accident that killed two experienced mountain athletes like Pession and Arlian.

A cellphone signal from one of the couple’s devices helped rescuers locate their bodies, according to Italian media reports. It took search and rescue many hours of flying to finally locate them.

“There were no traces on the rock to suggest that they had fallen,” RAI wrote. “Perhaps, while they continued along the ridge that divides the north and east faces, they slipped on the snow or the ground gave way.”

Many Italians have expressed condolences to the couple’s families, including Aosta Valley President Renzo Testolin, who said the entire region is grieving over “the loss of its young children.”

In an Instagram post from January 2023, Pession posted a photo with Arlian and a simple message: “Here’s to another hundred years like this.”

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