World champion freestyle skier dies after an avalanche in Japan

World champion freestyle skier dies after an avalanche in Japan. Image: KyleSmaine/

Kyle Smaine along with an unnamed Austrian has died after a tragic avalanche on the Hakuba Norikura mountain of Japan 

Former world champion skier Kyle Smaine has died after an avalanche hit, while they were on the Hakuba Norikura mountain near the Tsugaike ski resort in Japan.  

Smaine who was a freestyle skier from the U.S. died while he was filming a marketing campaign for Ikon pass and Nagano Tourism.

Reports about the incident stated that another fellow professional skier Adam U was also on the mountain when the avalanche hit and was trapped for over 25 minutes on the 2,469 metres mountain.

“We saw it coming,” U told Mountain Gazette, adding, “We heard the crack and realised it was a big one”.  

He said that “We started running and then we got hit.” 

U also said that Smaine along with Grant Gunderson, a photographer from the Gazette, were “going out for fun” between shoots on Sunday, Gunderson returned to Tsugaike after their first run down the mountain”.  

Following his return, both U and Smaine eventually decided to go back to the summit after they met another group of Austrian skiers.  

They then decided to take a different route on the second run and as per U, the avalanche was triggered by one of the members of the Austrian group.  

According to local reports, an avalanche warning had also been issued in the region at the time, due to heavy buildup of snow.  

A former X games competitor, Smaine won the gold medal at the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships in 2015 during a half-pipe event.

He was among four other Americans to win gold that year, which resulted in the U.S. leading with over 11 medals during the championship.  

Before the tragic incident, Smaine had also taken to Instagram on the same day and posted a video stating, “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 (sic) more exploring you do.” 


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A post shared by Kyle Smaine (@kylesmaine)

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Written by

Imran Khan