Skier Kyle Smaine, 31, and freestyle ski world champion in 2015, is one of two who died in the snow avalanche that took place last weekend in the Japanese prefecture of Nagano, his relatives announced.
The free ski team (freeski) of the United States confirmed the death of Smaine in a publication on its Instagram social network profile that was accompanied by a photograph of the athlete.
"We have lost an incredible person, friend, skier and teammate from the mountains," the organization wrote on Monday, sending its condolences to the athlete's family and relatives.
The skier's wife, Jenna Dramise, also shared the news of Smaine's death on Tuesday with a farewell message on the same social network in which she wrote: “I am incredibly grateful to have married you and have you in my life.
You loved skiing more than anyone I've ever met."
Rescuers in Nagano Prefecture.長谷夏帆 (AP)
"I know you had the best descents of your life back in Japan and I could never blame you for doing what you love," the message reads.
Smaine, who resided in Lake Tahoe, California recently posted that he was traveling to Nagano to enjoy "the amazing quality of the snow."
The Nagano authorities continued on Monday with the procedures to verify the identity of those killed in this incident, a prefectural police spokesman told EFE.
The town of Otari, home to the Tsugaike ski resort near which the avalanche that killed Smaine and another Austrian skier whose identity has not been released took place, was under an avalanche alert amid the wave of cold and heavy snowfall that had affected the region.
A group of thirteen people, including Smaine, were cross-country skiing off the slopes of the complex when the avalanche occurred around 2:30 p.m. local time last Sunday.
Photographer Grant Gunderson, who was among the group, posted about what happened, which was, "his worst nightmare."
On what was to be the last day of the trip, an avalanche caused by another group skiing further up the hill killed Smaine and another skier, while a third managed to escape unharmed after being buried in 1.5 meters of snow for 25 minutes.
Originally from Apple Valley, USA, Smaine won the freestyle skiing gold medal at the 2015 world championships in Kreischberg, Austria. His last major championship was the Mammoth Mountain World Cup three years later.
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