Who is Kyle Smaine? Honors flow as a pro skier dies in a Japanese avalanche

On Sunday, January 29, Kyle Smaine, a skier from South Lake Tahoe, California, was killed in an avalanche while skiing in Japan. The 31-year-old took a trip with several other skiers, including Adam Ü, an American professional skier, and a photographer, Grant Gunderson. The avalanche in question had a two meter crown.

Kyle Smaine competed at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships and won gold. At the 2018 Olympics, he was the first alternate for the US Olympic Alpine Skiing Team.

Kyle Smaine was a legend in the ski community. In May 2014, he graduated from Sierra Nevada College (now the University of Nevada) with a 3.95 GPA. As a rookie, he placed 9th in the Men’s Ski SuperPipe at the 2016 X Games Aspen.

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The ski racer was born on June 27, 1991. His hobbies included mountain biking, rock climbing and surfing. In a 2014 interview, Smaine shared that one day he wants to be the best skier in the world. He said he wanted to try big mountain skiing.

Smaine said he used to practice his skiing techniques on his home mountain, the Sierra Nevada in Tahoe. He shared how he realized it’s hard to be a professional skier for a lifetime, so he’s trying to enjoy it.


Kyle Smaine shared his final Instagram post on the day of his death; Internet users mourn the loss

Smaine has been quite active on Instagram where he has a following of over 28,000. His feed consists of photos and videos of his skiing adventures. The ski racer even posted on the Sunday before his tragic death.

It was a video of him skiing in Japan. Smaine also added the song good as hell by Lizzo with Ariana Grande. Check out the post below:

After news of his untimely death broke online, people took to the comments section to express their condolences. Many who knew Kyle Smaine from before remembered her skiing adventures.

I had the privilege of skiing with Kyle on a backcountry day in Tahoe. He led our crew and he was awesome and so nice. I was having gear issues and he waited patiently with me to make sure we all had a safe day on the mountain. Just an all round great guyRIP Kyle Smaine https://t.co/msHoAUW9Yn

Tribute to South Lake Tahoe’s Kyle Smaine during tonight @XGames Halfpipe final. Smaine tragically died in an avalanche while skiing in Japan today. He won gold at the 2015 World Championships and was the first alternate for Team USA at the 2018 Olympics. He was a legend @Sierra_at_Tahoe https://t.co/KgCscg8GcM

I was heartbroken to hear of my friend’s death #kylesmaine . He loved skiing more than anyone I knew, you will be missed. https://t.co/GxW4jty70J


How did Kyle Smaine die?

According to Grant Gunderson, who met Smaine on the trip, the ski racer was on a marketing trip for Nagano Tourism and Ikon Pass when he died. One of the people on the trip said that three skiers went free skiing on Sunday afternoon after deciding to take the last run of the day.

The group met another group of skiers who came from Austria. The Austrian group opted for a slightly different aspect of skiing with a different exposure.

While other skiers, Adam Ü and Kyle Smaine, were down the slopes working to change backcountry gear for the climb up the mountain, they were joined by the first group of Austrian skiers. Then the second skier from Austria triggered the avalanche.

An Austrian skier remained buried under the snow along with Smaine and Ü. However, Ü was at a depth of 1.5 meters for 25 minutes, after which he was recovered unharmed.

According to Gunderson, a group of 4-5 emergency medical technicians who went as customers and two Canadian mountain guides were in the area. They were the ones who performed the rescue.

The incident happened around 2:30 p.m. local time on the slopes of Mount Hakuba Norikura (8100 feet). Unfortunately, Kyle Smaine and another Austrian skier could not be saved. Two other Austrian skiers have also been missing since the avalanche.

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