A devastating avalanche has killed six experienced French skiers in the French Alps.

The bodies of the four men and two women, aged between 50 and 70, were uncovered in the Queyras valley, in the Haute-Alpes department.

It is believed the victims were skiing as a group and had been hiking together when the avalanche struck on Saturday.

Helicopter and sniffer dogs were deployed as part of the emergency rescue effort.

Pierre Besnard, the Haute-Alpes prefect, said "the bodies of three of the skiers were found overnight Saturday to Sunday", while the other three victims were discovered this morning.

Besnard commented: "When they set off, the sky was clear and the risk of avalanche estimated at 3 out of 5."

Since Christmas, over 24 people have been killed by avalanches whilst skiing in the Alps in France and Switzerland.

On Friday, a British skier fell hundreds of metres to his death near the French resort of Chamonix. The skier, who is thought to be in his 30s, had been attempting to descend the north face of the Tour Ronde on Mont Blanc.

The Tour Ronde is considered a challenging climb, usually only attempted by experienced climbers.

A police spokesman said: "He was with friends. He fell in a couloir and fell and slid a total of about 400 metres, not vertical." The police said that an investigation is currently under way.

On the same day, a 46-year-old French woman was killed by an avalanche whilst skiing in Valloire in the Savoie region.