South Lake Tahoe pro skier Smaine dies in avalanche in Japan

Associated Press

TOKYO — World champion halfpipe skier Kyle Smaine died after getting buried in an avalanche in the mountains of central Japan over the weekend.

The U.S. Freeski team posted on social media about the 31-year-old American’s death. Smaine, who lived in Lake Tahoe, California, recently posted that he was taking the trip to ski in the backcountry of the Nagano prefecture to enjoy the “unbelievable snow quality.”

His wife, Jenna Dramise, also posted on Instagram, saying “tonight I hope to ride some pow or bikes with you in my dreams.”

There had been heavy snowfall in the area at the time of Smaine’s trip, and authorities had issued avalanche warnings.
Photographer Grant Gunderson, who was on the trip, detailed the avalanche on social media and said Smaine “was thrown 50 meters by the air blast and buried and killed.”

Two other skiers were with Smaine, one of whom died and another who was buried in nearly 5 feet of snow but emerged unscathed. Gunderson did not give the full names of the other skiers.

Smaine won the world championship in ski halfpipe in 2015, the year after that discipline was added to the Olympics. His last major contest was a World Cup in Mammoth Mountain, California, that he won in January 2018.

Tributes to Smaine poured in on his Instagram page. On its own Instagram posting, the U.S. Freeski team said “Kyle Smaine was a World Champion freeskier, loved exploring the mountains, was a fierce competitor but an even better person and friend.”

Local freestyle skiier and Barton-sponsored athlete, Kyle Smaine, made a remarkable run for the 2018 Winter Games, rehabilitating from orthopedic surgery at Barton Health in September of 2017 to Olympic trial competitions in January.
Provided/Barton Health

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.