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Former halfpipe world champion Kyle Smaine killed in avalanche at age of 31 | Skiing

Kyle Smein, a former world half-pipe champion, died Sunday in an avalanche in Japan, his family confirmed.

The 31-year-old, who won the 2015 halfpipe world title, 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 “incredible snow.” quality”.

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

One of the American skiers, who was buried for 25 minutes before rescuers dug him up, told the Mountain Gazette: “We heard a crack. We understood: “It’s big.” We ran and then they shot us down.”

The US Embassy in Tokyo said it was “aware of the incident in Nagano Prefecture and has contacted the relevant authorities for all necessary assistance.”

Smein retired from international competition and his last high-profile event took place in February 2018. On Sunday, fellow athletes honored his memory.

“We all did it for Kyle tonight,” two-time Olympian halfpipe skier David Wise said Sunday after winning the X Games. “This is a bit of an emotional day for us. We’ve lost a friend.”

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