Tributes pour in for South Tahoe world champ skier Kyle Smaine

Tributes pour in for South Tahoe world champ skier Kyle Smaine
Tributes pour in for South Tahoe world champ skier Kyle Smaine
South Lake Tahoe’s Kyle Smaine catches air above the halfpipe on the Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix in Park Metropolis, Utah, final weekend. Smaine positioned sixth in Saturday’s halfpipe finals.
Courtesy USSA |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — South Lake Tahoe native and world champion halfpipe skier Kyle Smaine died Sunday, Jan. 29, after getting caught in an avalanche within the mountains of central Japan.

Smaine, 31, was reportedly snowboarding on a advertising and marketing journey for Ikon Move and Nagano Tourism with Mountain Gazette Senior Photographer and Washington-based skier Adam Ü (final identify withheld by Gazette for privateness) when the accident occurred.

The Mountain Gazette reported the information of the avalanche, stating Ü and Smaine went for a remaining backcountry run and bumped into a bunch of Austrian skiers on the summit. Smaine and Ü skied down and had been transitioning to pores and skin out when one of many Austrian skiers triggered the slide.

“We noticed it coming,” stated Ü in an interview with the Mountain Gazette. “We heard the crack. We realized it’s a huge one. We began working after which we bought hit.”

Gunderson, who had been snowboarding within the backcountry with Ü and Smaine earlier within the day, additionally gave an account of the incident through social media.

“Yesterday was my absolute worst nightmare state of affairs,” posted Gunderson. “It was presupposed to be the final day of the journey … We had dug a pit after which skied a line within the backcountry. I used to be exhausted from the final 10 days so after that run I skied all the way down to the bottom lodge. Kyle and Adam selected to return up and ski it once more.”

Gunderson stated whereas on the backside of the hill within the transition space, a skier above Smaine and Ü triggered an avalanche that stepped down into a bigger one on the adjoining slope. He added {that a} Japanese group had been doing beacon practices within the transition space earlier and that everybody felt protected there.

South Lake Tahoe’s Kyle Smaine will get huge air on the halfpipe throughout Olympic qualifying in 2018.
Offered/Brian Walker

When the avalanche occurred the group tried to run, in keeping with Gunderson’s put up, however Smaine was finally thrown 50 meters by an air blast and buried. One of many Austrian skiers reportedly died within the avalanche as properly. The Japan Instances reported a complete of 5 individuals had been caught within the avalanche that occurred close to Tsugaike Mountain Resort within the Nagano Prefecture.

Smaine will likely be remembered for his legendary snowboarding, contagious vitality and heat smile. He grew up snowboarding the mountains of the Tahoe space and was a beloved determine within the South Lake Tahoe group. Smaine graduated from South Tahoe Excessive College in 2009. He later attended Sierra Nevada School, and graduated in 2014.

“We’ve had the glory of watching you develop up and right into a beloved member of the Sierra household (and) out of doors group — from a few of your first turns, to placing on a present as ‘The Poacher’, to a World Champion skier (and) all-around stellar human being,” Sierra-at-Tahoe, Smaine’s house resort, posted to its Fb web page.

On the snow, Smaine was among the many greatest on the earth, capturing gold in halfpipe on the 2015 World Championships in Austria.

“At the moment we misplaced an unimaginable individual, good friend, skier and teammate to the mountains,” stated the U.S. Freeski Workforce in a social media put up. “Kyle Smaine was a World Champion freeskier, beloved exploring the mountains, was a fierce competitor however a fair higher individual and good friend. We, together with so many others, ship our love and luxury to his household, associates and group.”

In fall of 2017, Smaine fought again from orthopedic surgical procedure at Barton Well being, which turned one in all his sponsors, to turn into an alternate for the 2018 Olympics. Throughout that season he claimed a primary place end at Mammoth Mountain in halfpipe, after which a second place in Aspen, Colorado on the remaining halfpipe competitors of his profession.

“We be a part of the group in expressing our disappointment in regards to the passing of native legend, Kyle Smaine,” stated Barton Well being in an announcement. “It’s arduous to summarize Kyle and the influence he made on these round him, aside from to say he was a constructive drive. His smile and easygoing nature made everybody round him really feel good. And his contagious love for all issues Tahoe: ski, mountain bike, and water sports activities made everybody round him a extra passionate athlete. The years we labored with Kyle had been inspiring, and we’ll cherish the reminiscences made watching him fulfill his desires. Our hearts are with Kyle’s household and associates world wide.”

On this file picture, Kyle Smaine at slopes in Rosa Khutor, Russia throughout a World Cup occasion that served as an Olympic check run.
Offered/Kyle Smaine

Smaine was additionally inducted into South Lake Tahoe’s Champions Plaza in 2017 as aside of the primary spherical of athletes acknowledged when the set up was unveiled. He retired from aggressive snowboarding in 2018.

Smaine spent the next years snowboarding across the globe, and in November married longtime associate Jenna Dramise.

“I’m so extremely grateful that I bought to marry you and have you ever in my life,” stated Dramise in a social media put up. “You liked snowboarding extra then anybody I’ve ever met. I picked you up hitchhiking in New Zealand 2010 and who would have thought we’d be married 13 years later. The most effective rattling years of my life. I do know you had the most effective runs in your life on the market in Japan and will by no means blame you for doing what you liked.”

On Sunday night time, the X Video games paid tribute to Smaine, adopted by longtime good friend, Reno’s David Clever profitable his fifth gold medal.

“The pipe circumstances had been removed from ideally suited that night time. It was a mix of very quick and undervert, which meant it was going to take quite a lot of energy to remain within the pipe and never land on the deck,” stated Clever following the competitors. “On my third or fourth follow lap I smiled as a result of I might really feel Kyle’s presence there with me. Kyle and I grew up snowboarding sketchy, undervert pipes collectively. We all the time excelled in them. I stated to Kyle in my head, ‘that is our form of night time isn’t it?’

“As I used to be making small changes to my run to cater to the circumstances I made a decision to do a proper 9 lead blunt as a result of that was a trick we each would do,” Clever added. “On my profitable run I did one of many largest proper 9s of my life and it was actually the spotlight of my season. Thanks for that, Kyle!”

A GoFundMe marketing campaign has been arrange so as to increase funds to assist convey Smaine’s physique house. For extra info or to donate, go to