Former U.S. freestyle skiing world champion Kyle Smaine has died in an avalanche in Japan.
Two professional skiers were killed in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, including American freestyle skier Kyle Smaine. His age was 31.
Five people were caught in the avalanche while backcountry skiing on Mount Hakuba Norikura in the Nagano prefecture, site of the 1998 Winter Olympics, and two of them were killed, police said Reuters. According to the Japan Times, their remains were discovered by rescue personnel on Monday. It was reported that the other three members of the party all made it out alive. After significant snowfall, authorities issued an avalanche warning for the region.
The U.S. ski team released a message on Instagram confirming Smaine’s death. The second victim’s name has not been made public.
Among the mountains, “today we lost an incredible person, friend, skier, and teammate,” the message reads. “Kyle Smaine was a World Champion freeskier, loved exploring the mountains, was a fierce competitor but an even better person and friend. We, along with so many others, send our love and comfort to his family, friends and community.”
William Smaine, Smaine’s father, also confirmed his passing to NBC News. On Monday, Jenna Dramise, Smaine’s wife, paid homage to her late husband on Instagram.
Just hours before his untimely demise, Smaine sent a post and video from a ski run.
Smaine stated, “This is what brings me back to Japan each winter, “Unbelievable snow quality, non-stop storms, and really fun terrain that seems to get better then more exploring you do.”
The comments section of Smaine’s article and the posts announcing his death were flooded with tributes.
Originally from California, Smaine settled in Lake Tahoe. His halfpipe performance at the 2015 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships in Austria earned him the event’s top honour.