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US Professional Freestyle Skier Kyle Smaine Dies In Avalanche in Japan

An American professional freestyle skier was killed after being caught in an avalanche in Japan on Jan. 29, his family confirmed.

Kyle Smaine, 31, was one of five foreign skiers who were caught in the avalanche on Mount Hakuba Norikura in Nagano Prefecture on Japan’s Honshu Island, a Nagano police spokesman said, according to Reuters.

Smaine’s father, William Smaine, confirmed his son’s death to NBC News.

The skier from Lake Tahoe, California, had shared a video on Instagram earlier in the day that showed him gliding through a wooded area.

“This is what brings me back to Japan each winter,” he wrote. “Unbelievable snow quality, non-stop storms, and really fun terrain that seems to get better the more exploring you do.”

Smaine’s friends and fellow competitors left tributes to him in the comments of the Instagram post.

“Miss you man. Still remember that mami run like it was yesterday. RIP,” freestyle skier Alex Hall wrote.

“Wish we had more time to ski these past few years,” freestyle skier Joss Christensen commented. “Thanks for always being such a positive energy Kyle. Heavy hearts tonight.”

“Such a bright light lost,” Canadian freestyle skier Marielle Thompson wrote.

Smaine, who won a gold medal in halfpipe at the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships in 2015, was one of five people caught in the avalanche. Three were rescued, according to local Japanese broadcaster TBS Television.

Smaine and another skier were found without vital signs following the avalanche on the 8,100-foot-high mountain, according to NBC News. The other skier has not been identified by authorities.

Authorities had issued an avalanche warning for the area after heavy snowfall.

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