2018  Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix
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American skier Kyle Smaine was one of two men who died in a recent avalanche while backcountry skiing in a well known resort in Nagano, Japan. Authorities declined to disclose either skiers' nationalities and names, but Smaine's wife, Jenna Dramise, confirmed his death in an Instagram post. He was 31.

"You loved skiing more than anyone I've ever met. I picked you up hitchhiking in New Zealand 2010 and who would have thought we would be married 13 years later. The best damn years of my life," she wrote. "I know you had the best runs in your life out there in Japan and could never blame you for doing what you loved."

In 2015, Smaine won a gold medal in the halfpipe event at the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships.

Smaine, based in Lake Tahoe, Calif., won gold in the halfpipe at the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships in 2015.

Mike Rogge, editor of the magazine Mountain Gazette, and photographer Grant Gunderson -- who was on assignment -- also confirmed Smaine's death.

The trip was organized as part of a marketing project by Nagano's tourism board and a private company, but the main footage was done and on the day of the avalanche the skiers were doing runs for fun. Gunderson wrote he was exhausted from the last 10 days so he went down to the base lodge while Smaine and Washington-based pro skier Adam Ü went up again.

"They were at the bottom with a member from another group a long way away from the base of the slope transitioning to skin out. In fact a Japanese party was doing beacon practices at that transition area the previous lap. Every one felt safe in the transition area," Gunderson recounted on an Instagram post. "A second skier from the other group triggered an avalanche that stepped down into a massive avalanche (2m deep crown) on an adjacent slope.

"The slope that they had now done two runs on didn't slide. Adam, Kyle and the other skier tried to run."

Ü was buried 1.5 meters deep for 25 minutes but was miraculously unscathed. An unnamed man buried next to him died of internal injuries. Meanwhile, Gundersno said Smaine was thrown 50 meters by the air blast.

As many as five people were caught up in the avalanche. According to Reuters, an avalanche warning had been issued by weather authorities in the area in the third week of January because of heavy snowfall.