Kyle Smaine, a South Lake Tahoe professional skier, died in an avalanche in Japan while filming a marketing video on Sunday, according to multiple news sources.
Smaine, 31, and an unidentified Austrian skier from a different group both died in the incident at Nagano prefecture’s Mount Hakuba Norikura, Mountain Gazette reported. Smaine’s family confirmed that the former halfpipe champion was killed by the avalanche, according to The Guardian .
It was “an absolute worst nightmare scenario,” photographer Grant Gunderson wrote on Instagram. Gunderson, a photographer for Mountain Gazette, was working with Smaine and pro skier Adam Ü as part of a “marketing trip for Ikon Pass and Nagano Tourism,” the newspaper reported.
The three skiers had finished filming and went out Sunday for a free ski, Ü told the newspaper.
“It was the last run of the last day of our trip. We had no camera gear with us. We were going out for fun,” Ü said.
Then a skier from another group triggered a “ massive avalanche ” with a six-foot-deep crown, Gunderson wrote. Smaine, Ü, and the Austrian skier “tried to run,” but they all ended up buried. Ü miraculously emerged unscathed after being buried five feet down for 25 minutes, Gunderson said.
Tragically, the Austrian skier died from internal injuries, and Smaine was “thrown 50 meters by the air blast and buried and killed,” Gunderson wrote.
“Adam and I will be rehashing this for the rest of our lives,” Gunderson said.
Smaine, who won a halfpipe championship in 2015, had posted several videos and photos from his work trip to Japan and was “looking forward to getting back there.”
“Japan delivered plenty of smiles and good turns,” he wrote on Instagram last week.