Former world champion halfpipe skier Kyle Smaine, who won the world championship in 2015, died Sunday after getting buried in an avalanche in Japan. He was 31 years old.
Smaine was with two other skiers at the time of the avalanche, according to a social media post from photographer Grant Gunderson, who was also on the trip. One of them was also killed in the incident, while the other emerged unharmed after being buried in five feet of snow.
The United States Freeski Team posted a statement sending condolences to Smaine’s family.
“Today we lost an incredible person, friend, skier and teammate to the mountains. Kyle Smaine was a World Champion freeskier, loved exploring the mountains, was a fierce competitor but an even better person and friend,” the statement read. “We, along with so many others, send our love and comfort to his family, friends and community.”
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At the time of the group’s trip, there had been heavy snowfall in the area, and mountain authorities had reportedly issued avalanche warnings.
Smaine is survived by his wife, Jenna Dramise.