World champion halfpipe skier Kyle Smaine died after getting buried in an avalanche in the mountains of central Japan over the weekend.

The U.S. Freeski team posted on social media about the 31-year-old American’s death. Smaine, who lived in Lake Tahoe, California, recently posted that he was taking the trip to ski in the backcountry of Nagano Prefecture to enjoy the “unbelievable snow quality.”

His wife, Jenna Dramise, also posted on Instagram, saying “tonight I hope to ride some pow or bikes with you in my dreams.”

There had been heavy snowfall in the area at the time of Smaine’s trip, and authorities had issued avalanche warnings.

Photographer Grant Gunderson, who was on the trip, detailed the avalanche on social media and said Smaine “was thrown 50 meters by the air blast and buried and killed.” 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.

Smaine won the world championship in ski halfpipe in 2015, the year after that discipline was added to the Olympics. His last major contest was a World Cup in Mammoth Mountain, California, that he won in January 2018.

Tributes to Smaine poured in on his Instagram page. On its own Instagram posting, the U.S. Freeski team said “Kyle Smaine was a World Champion freeskier, loved exploring the mountains, was a fierce competitor but an even better person and friend.”

4 Finnish men rescued

Kyodo News reported that four Finnish men were rescued early Tuesday after they were stranded on a mountain in Niigata Prefecture, police said.

The four men in their 30s and 40s were found in the Myoko mountain range at around 2:15 a.m. None of them was injured, police said. The men were involved in an accident while skiing and snowboarding in a backcountry area, they said.

The four set off as part of a group of six but apparently got lost in the mountains on their way back after parting from the other two.

After the four were able to notify the two others that they were stranded, an official of the Akakura Kanko Resort informed the police at around 5:40 p.m. Monday.

Editor: Story has been updated to report rescue of the four Finnish men.

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