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World champion halfpipe skier Smaine dies in avalanche in JapanTOKYO
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Awful news. Back country skiing is incomparable - but it has its dangers.
Rest in Peace. Hopefully the four Finnish skiers and boarders can be found ASAP.
I heard the news today, oh boy!
Terrible way to go given this was the thing he loved the most.
Ironically, it may just have been the way he wanted to go. Powder was his heaven.
it is very important to respect nature. You need to understand the conditions before you venture into the wild. There were many reports of bad weather last week.
I saw a lot of young snow boarders going back country when I was in Nagano.
Smaine might be a champion, but if he didn't know the mountain, it would be a huge danger
My co-worker who is always posting videos and pictures of himself skiing in the backcountry posted a video of himself almost triggering an avalanche yesterday. Sad thing is, he will probably continue his hobby.
Don't go off piste. It's too dangerous.
Last weekend was a deadly one. It does make me wonder, is it a lack of preperation, or more because backcountry is still seen as a fringe sport of "the young" with lack of accurate and easly accessible information and gear rental (beacon, air-bag, etc)? Japan has a tendency of blanket statements and closing their eyes to new, bothersome things...I tried just now to get weather info for 10 min to no avail, then tried Wistler, and the Ski hp had link to Backcountry, from there link to weather map with avalanche risk...
Wow, RIP. Lake Tahoe brings memories, though never skied there.
So he didn't trigger an avalanche.....cool story bro.
That's fine for you, but I love riding off course. Life comes with risk. You try to mitigate it as much as possible, but in the end nothing is 100% safe.
It would be absolute criminal incompetence for a guy of his experience to go out the back without all of the avy gear.....for him to go out in a group that didn't all have the correct avy gear....so I wonder why the rest of the group that wasn't hit toddled off to tell patrol and didn't stay and look for him. The report I read said nothing of them trying to find him....although they may well have.....but the report I read said it happened at 2:30pm and they left the scene to call for help.
The trouble in Japan, in comparison to other snow places around the world, is that Japanese ski patrol do very little land management. They do not do avy control, as other places have done for decades. They simply say "Don't go out there". The trouble with this head in sand (snow) approach is that they often close so-called back country gates for spurious reasons......such as it's a weekday.....they don't have the staff.....they can't be bothered checking.....because this isn't applied to the same standard across the board, people will take risks. IF riders know that patrol take management of danger to a high level, then when that rope is closed, they are more likely to abide by that decision, because they know it must be super sketchy. Japan likes to project that it's predominately foreigners who head out of bounds but this is simply not true. The vast majority of people I see out there are Japanese. 2 guys died at the weekend on Tenjindaira in Gunma due to an avalanche, but less has been made of this in the news...why? Because they are Japanese.
You can get avalanche bulletins here, but they are only updated every few days and only for popular resorts.
Agreed that backcountry people are largely left to their own devices. International Personal Locator Beacons are illegal here because of radio frequency restrictions, so you’re limited to Garmin InReach (or similar iridium satellite comms) and something called cocoheli which is a bargain at 5000 yen a year. Always be prepared to spend a night on the mountain if you go into the wilds
Hope this info helps.
Photographer Grant Gunderson, who was on the trip, detailed the avalanche on social media...Two other skiers were with Smaine, one of whom died and another who was buried in nearly 5 feet of snow but emerged unscathed. Gunderson did not give the full names of the other skiers but one was an Austrian.
Perhaps he/they were doing a shoot, and didn't want to back out.
Many back country deaths this time of year in Canada BC interior as well unfortunately
Sounds like there was a warning, did they have local guides?
I never done any back country skiing, but if I was living near the mountains, I sure would do some back country skiing. It is a nice way to enjoy the mountain, not more risky than everyday’s life. Mitigate the risk, and that’s it,
Japanese mountains can be dangerous, and sometimes foreigners overlook at it, but this was a tour with experienced skiers. They were in the bad place at the bad time. The corridor they were in is known from locals for the risk. Too late to say but with the heavy snow, I hope they considered all risk
Tragic but could have been avoid by respecting rules.
1 area that bucks this trend is Niseko. The locals campaigned for years to have proper managed access to the back country, they butted heads with the stubborn old guard of the ski patrol and resort owners for a long time before finally getting them to agree to their gate system and the so-called "Niseko Rules". Since this system has been brought in, the amount of deaths in Niseko due to avalanche has fallen. People tend not to duck ropes now because they know that as soon as it's a safe as possible, ski patrol will responsibly allow access again.
EDIT I have read the account by the photographer Grant Gunderson on IG...
They did in fact have all the gear, they did stay and try a rescue.....They had dug a pit.....They had skied that line twice before. They were away from the base of the slope they had just rode, transitioning to ski-tour mode when a skier from another group triggered an avalanche that stepped down onto an adjacent slope and turned into a massive 2m crown slide. 1 guy was buried 1.5 metres under for 25 minutes but has come out unscathed, a guy buried next to him wasn't so lucky and died from internal injuries. The pro-skier who died was thrown 50 metres by the air blast in front of the slide (that's how powerful it was!) and then buried under the subsequent debris. This was the last ride of the day....the photographer decided to call it quits, but these 2 went back up for 1 more ride......they did everything they could've. Sad times
And if you get trouble? Do you expect someone to risk his life to come and rescue you, just so you can have fun?
Often the people who do rescues are others who participate in the activity, as a sort of 'I would want someone to help me' goes around comes around.
Underestimating Japanese mountains during winter season is the worst idea even the most seasoned skiers or snowboarders could think of. RIP
They simply say "Don't go out there".
In others words, they treat you like an adult. Maybe Japan should go back to group tours only, since you cant handle the responsibility
Yeah right, Thats why American guy ran to the Japanese police for help. Look at the news pictures. All I saw are Japanese rescuers. I did not see any other skiers. Did you?
How Sad, even the best can sometime miscalculate or underestimate the risks, RIP Sir.
Exactly! They also ignored the avalanche warning.
Sometimes there are rules and warnings for a reason.
The laws of nature and probability some prove fatal, something you should not ignore
Backcountry for skiing or snowboarding is very dangerous. Avalanche occurs there sometimes. He should've known it. Too young to die.
A sad ending for him and his family but many are killed in the pursuit of their sports and they all know the risks they are taking.
Nature in all its aspects is so beautiful,.......but also can be deadly.
RIP. On hearing the initial news, I thought they must have been hit skinning up, but it sounds like they were hit in a thought-to-be safe area at the bottom. It was immediately obvious from the scant details that they were not skiing at the time. The Japan Avalanche Network will publish a full report in a couple of weeks, but I guess they were at the flat marshy (in summer) area, Tenguppara itself, which proved to be in a run-out zone.
On a scale of poor judgement (0) to unlucky (10), this sounds like a strong 8 or 9 on the unlucky side. It is impossible to eradicate all risk, so being unlucky will always remain as a possibility. The crown height was reported as "2m", and most slabs will not go that deep. Even if you dug a pit that deep, many would not view an ice layer down there as a major threat. If the weight of 2m of snow won't trigger a slope, it's unlikely an 80 kg human will. The avalanche here was triggered by another another (smaller) avalanche on an adjacent slope. If I remember correctly, its very similar to how legendary snowboarder Craig Kelly was killed. His group were traversing at the bottom of Slope B, which was triggered by an avy on nearby Slope A.
Backcountry skiing is fantastically trendy at the moment, meaning lots of inexperienced people who can barely ski or snowboard (that's even before they put on a 10kg backpack) can be found in easy access backcountry. Unlike Semaine and his group, most backcountry skiers and snowboarders are not "experts". Once again RIP.
I have no idea of the breakdown of this group, but you seem to be insinuating Japanese people don't/can't ski? And why would they be skiing as part of the rescue?
They don't risk their lives - they wait until the conditions are relatively safe before making a rescue. And, if I understand correctly, in Japan you have to pay the costs associated with the rescue. People are killed an injured in car accidents all the time - just extending the above logic - should we tell people to stop leisure trips in cars? Is it fair to put extra strain on hospitals and ambulance services just so people can go and travel in cars for fun?
Strangerland is right - people involved in rescues, while not necessarily backcountry skiers, will typically be experienced mountaineers - they wouldn't have the skills and experience necessary to be going out into the mountains and rescuing people if they weren't.
Simply saying "Don't go out there" - and most ski resorts in Japan say that literally all of the time, sounds like treating people like children, not adults. Just outright banning people from doing stuff they enjoy is rarely a good strategy. As other posters pointed out, other places have done things differently including in Japan (Niseko) with a good deal of success. Snow sports have changed vastly over the years - advanced riders don't want to just ride down ice-bahns at 100 mph in fluorescent spandex outfits anymore. Unfortunately, many Japanese resorts haven't moved with the times.
There is almost always some danger of avalanche in the backcountry - throughout the season, avalanche level would rarely drop below "moderate" anywhere, and when it is moderate or low, it isn't worth going out there anyway - at least not for the kind of riding these people are looking to do - deep, untracked fresh powder. In any case, avalanche is only one kind of danger out there - more people probably die through hitting trees than in avalanches. People also just get stuck in deep snow - I was skiing at Kandatsu Kogen resort a few years back and that happened to a snowboarder on an inbounds resort run while I was there - just fell in the deep snow, couldn't get up and suffocated to death. Do you want to ban skiing at resorts too? Of course, statistically going out in the backcountry is a more risky activity, but it's worth noting that for each tragedy that you hear about in the news, there are thousands of people that go out and enjoy themselves without incident.
Honestly, if some people just want to stay at home, wrap themselves in cotton wool and never expose themselves to any kind of danger, then by all means they can go for it. But please, just leave the rest of us alone - many of us are sick to the back teeth of listening to these types preach to us from their holier-than-thou high horses - especially over the past 3 years or so - think they can save the world when what they really want to do is control it. In any case, their ham-fisted efforts at trying to "protect" people by just banning stuff quite often end up doing the exact opposite.
So he didn't trigger an avalanche.....cool story bro.
Basically the top layer of snow started shifting around him, but stopped after moving 10-20 feet or so. He was lucky. I guess you could call it a mini-avalanche. Anyways, thanks for your concern BRO.
The top 10cm or so of snow sliding on you is called sluff. It usually won't bury you, but it can sweep you along, possibly into some rocks or trees where all sorts of injuries can happen. So yes, its still dangerous. In the Travis Rice in Hakuba video, one of his group was sluffed out on the well-known super steep rocky line they rode and was lucky to not be injured.
If people want to ride the backcountry, that's fine, but you shouldn't think it automatically makes you cool. If you have dependents, adjust your risk profile accordingly. Most kids would rather have a dad that tall tales of how cool their missing dad was.
The moral of this story is nature is king of the world! He may have been the best and the best always want to test their limits. I wonder if he had a beacon skiing back country, most guys I know use them for that purpose in case they get lost of break a leg they can be found. Sad the guy lived over the hill from me we have lots of snow in the mountains here. I can understand the best want to always test their limit, at least he died doing what he loved.
At least he died doing what he enjoyed, but he was much too young. That's what makes it so sad.
I've been in that beautiful region during the winter, spring and autumn. I'm sure that area inspired and motivated him to pursue more free skiing in various places. Nonetheless with the pristine winter beauty comes a danger and it can be fatal if you're not careful.