JAPAN. (THECOUNT) — Professional Skier and photographer, Kyle Smaine, of South Lake Tahoe, has been identified as the victim in a Sunday avalanche in Nagano, Japan.

Smaine, 31, died in an avalanche in Japan while on a marketing trip assignment for Ikon Pass and Nagano Tourism on Sunday.


Mountain Gazette Senior Photographer Grant Gunderson, the photographer on the trip, was also on assignment along with Glacier, Washington-based pro skier Adam Ü, when the avalanche occurred on Sunday.

According to reports, the three skiers were on a free ski on Sunday afternoon, local Japan time. “It was the last run of the last day of our trip. We had no camera gear with us. We were going out for fun,” Ü said, reports Mountain Gazette.

Via Mountain Gazette:

After the first run, Gunderson departed back to the resort. Ü and Smaine went for a second lap. On the summit, Ü and Smaine ran into a group of Austrian skiers. Smaine and Ü skied the same run as their previous lap. The Austrian group decided to ski a slightly different aspect with different exposure, according to Ü.

Smaine and Ü, at the bottom, were transitioning their backcountry gear back into uphill mode. The first of the Austrian group joined them. The second Austrian skier triggered the slide. “We saw it coming,” said Ü. “We heard the crack. We realized it is a big one. We started running and then we got hit.”

Ü was buried 1.5 meters deep for approximately 25 minutes. Ü said he believed it was 4 or 5 minutes. Ü asked how long he was down. The rescuer who assisted in digging him out said approximately 25 minutes. Ü was able to boot pack out of the incident, miraculously unscathed.

The names of the Austrian skiers has not been reported. At least two doctors were part of a nearby guided group. They responded to the scene and participated in the rescue efforts. Ü said the group was performing CPR on the Austrian skier when they pronounced him dead. Shortly after, they said the other victim, Smaine, was unresponsive.


Geo quick facts: Nagano is the capital and largest city of Nagano Prefecture, located in the Nagano Basin in the central Chūbu region of Japan. Nagano is categorized as a core city of Japan. Nagano City is the highest prefectural capital in Japan, with an altitude of 371.4 meters – Wikipedia.