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New Zealand snowboarder killed by avalanche in Hokkaido


A 35-year-old New Zealand man has died after being engulfed by an avalanche while snowboarding with four others near the Niseko ski resort in Kutchan, Hokkaido.

According to police and local media, the incident occurred at around 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Fuji TV reported that the New Zealand man, Sam Kerr, has been in Japan since 2007 where he operated a snowboarding guide and extreme tour business at Niseko.

On Saturday, Kerr and four other foreigners were snowboarding in an off-limits area, despite warning signs having been posted about the danger of avalanches.

Kerr and one other snowboarder were hit by the avalanche which was about 350 meters long and 250 meters wide. The second snowboarder suffered light injuries.

Authorities were able to locate Kerr via a beacon he had on him and dug him out of the snow. He was in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest but died before he could be taken to hospital, police said Sunday.

Local officials have warned skiers and snowboarders about the danger of going off-piste.

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sad way to go but better than many others, signs are there for a reason and we all think it'll never happen to us. RIP Sam, condolences to family and friends.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Sad news indeed. I urge all skiers and snowboarders, even experienced ones, not to disregard warning signs and go off piste, even though the snow is better.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

He knew how to show off. He did one last time. RIP

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Ignorance is not blissful in situations as such. RIP

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Sad story.

I don't know if the story has been written accurately, but the chances of survival and full recovery will be very low if it is the "authorities" who have to come and dig you out. There is no time to wait, and you really need the members of the group with you to do it. Some avalanche victims do not make full recoveries after being buried for not much more than five minutes.

Avalanche danger greatly varies from day to day with the snowpack and weather conditions, so depending on the day, skiing in an area with permanent warning signs could be anything from low risk to foolhardy.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I knew this guy. He was a top man and showed us around the mountains on my second trip to Niseko. Really had a zest for life and rubbed off on all around him. The incident happened in the Haru no Taki area of Niseko Annapuri resort. RIP Sam - thanks for your time in looking after us up there ! See ya gain bro !

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Really unfortunate. Everyone please follow the warning signs for your safety.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Japanese also get killed in avalanches...best to take precautions and respect the warnings. However, the thrill is also taking risks.

Skiers have been killed in European and Japanese Alps. RIP.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The silver lining here is this guy who is a guide and should've known better, didn't drag down anybody else with him.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

They do this every season. Go off course and have the rescue save/find them when they get lost. No sympathy for those who have no regard for rules.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Well, disobey the rules and you get in trouble. Even an experienced guide should take heed of the rules of the land. No one is more powerful than father nature.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

He operates an outdoor extreme business. This wouldn't of happened if Japanese police this going off course looking for the fresh powder snow thrill and fine people doing it or taking their license away, they do this every season. People pay the operators to give them the thrill which means people's lives are in their hands, it's lucky the whole five didn't die. Families would have every right to sue the outdoor adventure company and Niseko for allowing this to happen if someone else other than the instructor got killed.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

To the "no sympathy" camp: what's wrong with you?

It's difficult to tell from this article alone if they were truly in an off-limits area. The very nature of backcountry skiing is, by definition, skiing out of bounds. There are plenty of places in Japan (and worldwide) where skiing out bounds is, in fact, allowed, but it means there will be no patrol to sweep the area at the end of the day. To ski there is to do so at one's own risk. This is what people pay to experience. From the way this is written one might assume they were breaking the law; this should not be assumed. Entering restricted areas means you assume a certain amount of risk and are forgoing the option of resort search and rescue.

This man died, presumably, doing what he loved. I can certainly extend sympathy to the people who loved him. My condolences.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

all you people saying no sympathy, have you ever swum in the ocean when there were no lifeguards or flags up? if you say know then you really aren't qualified to pass judgement on outdoor activities, if you have then it's the same as this. Yes the warnings are there but 99.995% of snow is outside of groomed pistes.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This is JT - you could have an article about a girl who got a fluffy puppy for her birthday, and posters here would complain about dog hair.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sad, senseless death. RIP

It's lucky that nobody else died. There will always be thrill seekers, and some of them will inevitably die because of the nature of the thrills they seek. It was a pretty dumb thing to do, but hopefully Sam Kerr's death will serve as a deterrent to some who might otherwise have done the same thing. If not, it's just a senseless death.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Sad, senseless death.

It's not really senseless. Some people enjoy living their lives in a way that sometimes takes some risk. This guy obviously enjoyed his life, and while it's sad he died, it's hardly senseless.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

It is senseless if you have wife and kid to support. Seriously if you want the thrill and all prob best to stay single. Anyone who lost a parent and primary breadwinner can understand the disadvantage he has created for his kid. All for what he enjoyed - kind of selfish if you ask me but he has a right to his own way.

He had full avi gear as did his team who I read dug him out. Sounds like a very experienced guide which is scary to think about when hiring guides... the best of them all seem to fall to nature. Don't know how many avalanche deaths are followed by quotes of how this guy was a pro, expert of the area, etc.. and still either made bad call or was unlucky?

Would be great to get an interview with the folks riding with him to get details of how it happened.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

He had a wife and four year old son. Too many heartless comments in this thread.

Haru-no-taki area is one of the few strictly off limit areas in Niseko. It was obviously a bad decision to be there... that being said, I still have a lot of sympathy for this man and his family. There's a lot of risk in almost any activity but the important thing is to try and manage that risk as much as possible. Stay safe out there folks.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

As a skier I know of inherent dangers, but this is so sad for all - family, friends & community.

If it is in the Haru no Taki then ;

"...There are 9 Niseko mountain rules

Haru no taki & Yu no sawa is strictly off limits (Your lift pass will be confiscated as punishment if caught within these areas)

Haru no taki used to be open in the past, but after an avalanche accident in 1998, in which 4 were involved and one person lost her life, the area was then deemed to be too dangerous as it’s very avalanche prone and was closed off permanently in 2000. Don’t be a daredevil and enter these out of bounds areas. You’re entering at your own risk as the area is not checked by ski patrols and if you get caught in an accident, you’re on your own....."

2 ( +2 / -0 )


To the "no sympathy" camp: what's wrong with you?

What if this instructor survived and the tourist he was guiding died ? what will be your reaction for him disobeying the important guidelines of safety? If they are just trill seeking individuals, and are really good skiiers or snowboarders then knock themselves out, but if he is running a business and an instructor putting the learners at risk!? that is not good at all.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

He was with friends it said But I guess he is a lead guide and put his "friends" at risk too

As a guide owner in niseko he really set a bad example by breaking rules

I'm not so knowledgable - is that area still being skiied by the daring or really closed to everyone? I don't think there is any law against ducking ropes just violation of niseko rules to get u banned from resort access maybe?

0 ( +0 / -0 )


It's not really senseless. Some people enjoy living their lives in a way that sometimes takes some risk

What will you say if someone drives and exceeds the speed limit on a highway because he/she enjoys the risks!? if you want to live at risk, knock yourself out, but if you are breaking some rules or can cause possible damage to others then you are selfish and setting as a bad example


He had a wife and four year old son. Too many heartless comments in this thread.

He should've thought about that before he disregarded the warning signs. I hope he also thought about that by breaking these warning signs, somebody else who has a family could have been affected and killed by that avalanche?

I didn't wish for this guy to be dead and I am not happy about it. But my point is, I definitely blame him for his irresponisibility and if in case he survived, I definitely want a fair punishment for what he's done. May this set as an example that the there are reasons why auhtorities put warning signs, and it's for the safety of other people. If you want to trill seek, go somewhere else by yourself or with the people who thinks the same as you and make sure that you are not putting other people around at risk by the danger of your trill seeking activity.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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