Jeff Martin, 65, collapsed on the ski lift after suffering a heart attack.
He then fell from the moving lift from a height of 32 feet.
The accomplished sailor who lived in Falmouth, Cornwall, was on holiday with family and friends in the ski resort of Méribel.
An inquiry has been opened to determine the cause of death.
Major Christian Crueize, a spokesman from the mountain rescue service in Modane that attended the scene, said: "He was certainly ill on the chairlift before falling but an autopsy has been demanded to determine the exact cause of death. Was it the trauma of the fall or the cardiac arrest or a mix of the two?"
Emergency services were called at 12.20pm on Friday to the Roc-de-Tougne lift.
Resuscitation attempts lasted for more than half-an-hour but Mr Martin was pronounced dead at the scene.
Six first responders intervened and they were shortly joined by two doctors.
Mr Martin boarded the six-seater lift with a female friend.
They were the only two passengers.
Less than a minute later Mr Martin was taken ill.
It is not known if the pair had had time to put the chairlift’s safety bar, which sits across the passengers’ laps, into the lock-mode. He then fell off the lift on to the mountain below.
Major Crueize said: “The victim got on to the chairlift with a friend. The friend thought the victim was joking around but in fact he was suffering a heart attack. They had only just departed on the lift.
“After travelling very little distance – perhaps 100 to 200 metres – he fell.
“We don’t know precisely what happened but we are speaking to his friend.
"We don’t know if the safety bar had been locked down into the correct position by the victim or his friend. There is a possibility that if the safety bar is not locked down properly it can spring back up. There is a spring system enabling it to open.
“One theory is that he didn’t have time to lock the bar down properly before his heart attack. He therefore fell during his seizure. But we do not yet know if this seizure is what caused his death.”
He said the lift was operating again on Saturday.
He said: "Specialist technicians examined the structure and parts yesterday. The lift is running again."
The six-seater lift was constructed by the French company Pomagalski in 2017 and can transport 2,400 people per hour.
Mr Martin served as the Executive Secretary of the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) for 40 years. He had worked at every Laser Open World Championship apart from the first one in 1974 when he was a competitor.
A statement from the ILCA, under the heading Eight Bells – Jeff Martin, referring to the sailing term “end of the watch” or an obituary – read: “ILCA is shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Jeff Martin on 11 January 2019 while on a ski holiday with family and friends.
"Jeff’s dedication to the sport of sailing was unparalleled, having served as the Executive Secretary of the International Laser Class Association for 40 years. Jeff was a cornerstone of Laser events, having worked at every Laser Open World Championship except the first one in 1974 where he was a competitor.
"The loss of Jeff Martin will be keenly felt throughout the sailing world and our deepest condolences go out to Jeff’s family and friends.”
Last September, Mr Martin was inducted into the Laser Class Hall of Fame which recognises individuals who have contributed significantly to the Laser’s international standing.
At the announcement in Ireland, Andy Roy, North American Laser Class President, stated: “On behalf of the ILCA World Council we’re extremely pleased to be recognising these outstanding contributors to the Laser Class.
"I’m also proud this evening to be presenting directly to two of the inaugural inductees, Jeff Martin and Peter Seidenberg.
"I’ve known both gentlemen since the 1970s, and it’s great to be recognising their significant contributions to the Laser."
Méribel is part of the Trois Vallées ski area and is popular with the British.
It is in the Tarentaise Valley near the town of Moûtiers.
Racing legend Michael Schumacher suffered a catastrophic skiing accident in this resort in December 2013.
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