Former halfpipe world champion Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche aged 31 | To ski

Kyle Smaine, a former halfpipe world champion skier, was killed in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, his family have confirmed.

The 31-year-old, who won the world halfpipe title in 2015, had traveled to Japan from his home in Lake Tahoe, California, on a work trip where, according to an Instagram post, he was looking forward to the “incredible snow quality”.

On Sunday, he was among a group of Austrian and American skiers caught in the avalanche on Mount Hakuba Norikura in Nagano Prefecture. Three of the skiers were eventually able to make it down the mountain, but Smaine and another man, who has yet to be identified, were later found dead, according to local police. The Japanese authorities had issued an avalanche warning for the area after heavy snowfall.

One of the American skiers, who was buried for 25 minutes before being excavated by rescuers, told Mountain Gazette: “We heard the bang. We realized, ‘It’s a big one.’ We started running and then we got hit.

The U.S. embassy in Tokyo said it was “aware of the incident in Nagano Prefecture and has contacted the relevant authorities to provide all necessary assistance.”

Smaine had retired from international competition and his last high-profile event was in February 2018. Fellow athletes paid tribute to him on Sunday.

“We did all this for Kyle tonight,” two-time Olympic half-pipe skiing champion David Wise said after his X Games win on Sunday. “It’s a bit of an emotional day for us. We have lost a friend.”

Smaine’s wife, Jenna Dramise, wrote on Instagram that “Tonight in my dreams I hope to ride some snow or bikes with you.”

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