An young snowboarder who crashed into a snowdrift on the first day of the season is in need of a "miracle", her devastated family said.

British student Mimi Watts, described as "fabulous, outgoing, plucky" girl, was left critically ill after a snowboarding accident in the French Alps and is still fighting for her life.

Miss Watts, who was an experienced snowboarder, fell headfirst into a snowdrift and was stuck for about 45 minutes following the fall in Chamonix on Saturday.

snowboarding

Mimi Watts is an experienced snowboarder


By the time emergency crews arrived, the 26-year-old, from Lavenham, in Suffolk, had suffered a cardiac arrest, prompting fears of brain damage.

Her parents, Nicky and Dominic, along with her 27-year-old brother Rory, have now flown to France to be by her bedside while she remains on a life support machine.

Mother Nicky McAllister told the Times her daughter had "irreversible brain damage".

"She is in the best possible hands and having the best possible care, but she has given no response to any stimulation.

"The decision to turn off the machine is with the French doctors and they have said something like four or five days.

"She was doing the sport she loved. She was at the back of the group and somehow she fell, and the rest of the group didn't see and only realised at the bottom of the run that she wasn't with them.

"As she was one of the most experienced, they presumed she must have gone and done another run or something like that. She was found by an individual and they contacted the police and within 45 minutes she was in hospital."

Miss Watts' aunt Shona Pollock said there had been no news overnight.

She added her family was "consumed with grief" as it became clear she was unlikely to recover.

"She's on a life support machine but it won't be for long," Ms Pollock said.

"I have a religious friend who said there is still hope but I don't believe there is. Her brain was starved of oxygen for about 45 minutes.

"It's so sad. Mimi is a fabulous, outgoing character, plucky, and someone who loved the mountains.

"She is adored by her brother. She's just a thoroughly positive, optimistic, lovely girl."

chamonix

Chamonix, where the accident happened on the first day of the season


French police were unable to notify the family for a day as Miss Watts was not wearing any identification, Ms Pollock said.

The design student was reportedly evacuated to hospital in nearby Annecy, before being transferred to a specialist unit. It is believed no-one else was involved in the accident.

Miss Watts had been in France for a few weeks and was working at the resort, her aunt said.

Ms Pollock, who runs a catering company in Barnes, south-west London, said: "She had been out there for a couple of weeks but, tragically, Saturday was the first day of the season.

"No-one really knows what happened but she had all the right kit on."

Miss Watts was in the Grands Montets, the largest pisted skiing area in the Chamonix Valley, when the accident happened.

She had previously studied costume design at Sussex University and had attended a local convent school in Bury St Edmunds, her aunt said. She was due to begin a masters degree course in design.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the hospitalisation of a British national in France on December 8.

"We are providing consular assistance to the family at this difficult time."