A 12-year-old French boy died after falling from a cliff (wikimedia commons)

A 12-year-old French boy died after falling from a cliff after he and his brother became lost while skiing in the French Alps.

Their father had let the boys ski back to their apartment in Avoriaz on their own, while he took their six-year-old sister down another slope on Saturday (24 February).

The boy and his 10-year-old brother strayed off piste and found themselves in a forest as night fell. As they tried to make their way out, they both plunged over a 490-foot cliff.

The younger boy spent the night in sub-zero temperatures beside his dead brother at the foot of the precipice.

Rescuers eventually found the boys at around 4.00am on Sunday.

The younger brother's fall was slowed by tree branches, and is being treated in hospital for a broken pelvis and shock. The family has not been named.

Stéphane Bozon of the police mountain unit told Le Parisien newspaper that the boy's survival was a "miracle", adding that not only did he live through the fall "he could have died of cold" overnight.

Also, a British skier fell to his death in the Alpe d'Huez ski resort about 160 miles from Avoriaz on Saturday.

The man was skiing off-piste in a party of three men, when two of them got into trouble and fell from a ridge, said a mountain rescue spokesperson.

All three men were in their in their 20s and were experienced skiers, said police, who have not named any of the group.

The man who died fell between 100 and 200 metres and hit several rocks before coming to rest on the mountainside.

The second skier who also fell only suffered minor injuries, while the third member of the group did not fall and was unharmed. The party was taken down the mountain by rescuers.

The British Foreign Office said it was giving support to the dead man's family.

In a statement confirming the death, it added: "We remain in close contact with local authorities. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time."