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Days after skier Kyle Smaine's death in Japan avalanche, wife reflects on his love of skiing

KCRA Sacramento 2/1/2023 Michelle Bandur
Kyle Smaine's wife speaks after husband's avalanche death © KCRA 3 Kyle Smaine's wife speaks after husband's avalanche death

The South Lake Tahoe and ski communities are mourning the loss of one of their beloved professional skiers.

Kyle Smaine, 31, died Sunday during an avalanche in Japan.

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Smaine was skiing in Nagano Prefecture on Japan's Honshu Island when the avalanche happened Sunday.

Another skier from Austria also died. Five foreign skiers in all were caught in the avalanche and another group of eight skiers helped dig out the group. Witnesses told his wife Jenna Dramise the air blast threw Smaine about 50 meters down the mountain.

"I spoke with the rescue team people who tried to resuscitate him and that was nice closure," Dramise said.

Dramise said it was an accident.

"Kyle's wish would be he wouldn’t want anyone to be scared to go in the backcountry," Dramise said. "He would just want them to be prepared and keep skiing pow for as long as they live."

Dramise said she and Smaine met when they were teenagers in New Zealand competing in the Juniors World Championships. She's a snowboarder and he excelled in freestyle ski half-pipe. She said she picked him up hitch-hiking down the mountain and the couple started dating a few years later.

"It's been ten years since we’ve been together and we got married on Nov. 18 of last year," she said. "I just love him so much."

Dramise said besides winter sports, they loved cycling and country dancing. She wore a special cowboy hat and overalls. She said they wore matching overalls quite often.

Smaine shared his time on the slopes on social media, telling his followers to "ski pow and always smile." He wrote on Instagram about the "unbelievable snow quality, non-stop storms, really fun terrain ... that brings me back to Japan each winter."

Dramise watched a video a friend sent her of his last run in Japan.

"He loved it, he loved it," she said. "He said he had the best run of his life."

Smaine was in Japan for a marketing trip and traveled with a photographer friend. She said they FaceTimed before he went up the mountain for the last time. She said he was having the time of his life.

Dramise said it brings her comfort knowing he was happy and lost his life doing what he loved most.

"To be honest, if I asked him how he would want to die he would say, 'I want to ski in Japan. I want to be skiing in Japan when I die.' I kid you not: He would say those words," she said.

Dramise said she plans to be at the FIS Freeski and Snowboard World Cup in Mammoth Mountain this weekend for a special tribute to her husband.

Smaine won the 2015 FIS freestyle ski and snowboard world championship.

The city of South Lake Tahoe recognized Smaine in June of 2018 for his accomplishments as a professional skier and inducted him into Champion's Plaza.

In a statement, the city said, "We are grateful that his memory will live forever preserved at this location. Our thoughts go out to his loved ones and all those whose hearts he touched in his beautiful, yet all-too-short life."


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