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World Champion Skier Dies in Avalanche

Kyle Smaine was was skiing in Japan's backcountry when a big avalanche struck him and two others, according to reports

South Lake Tahoe pro skier Kyle Smaine has died in an avalanche in Japan. An Austrian skier who’s name has not been reported also died in the avalanche, according to the Mountain Gazette. The avalanche had a crown of two metres.

Smaine, 31, was on a trip with several others, including Grant Gunderson, a photographer for Mountain Gazette, and American pro skier Adam Ü. Gunderson said it was the last run of the last day of the trip and it was just for fun. Smaine and Ü were at the bottom of the run transitioning back to uphill mode when a group of Austrian skiers triggered the avalanche from above. Smaine, Ü and an Austrian skier were buried. Ü was 1.5 metres deep for 25 minutes. He was rescued and left unscathed.

Gunderson said, “Another group in the area consisting of two Canadian mountain guides and 4 or 5 emergency doctors/nurses etc. as clients performed the rescue. The doctors did everything they could for Kyle and the other skier.” The Japan Times said the avalanche occurred at around 2:30 p.m. on the eastern slope of the 2,469-metre Mount Hakuba Norikura near the border with Niigata Prefecture. The region has had several days of heavy snowfall.

Smaine won gold at 2015 World Championships and was the first alternate for Team USA in 2018 Olympics. He was a legend among the ski community. We send our condolences to Smaine’s family and friends.