Three snowsports legends killed in South American avalanches

The ski and snowboard community lost three of its best this week in two separate incidents in the South American Andes. Canadian freeskier J.P. Auclair and Swedish ski mountaineer Andreas Fransson were killed in an avalanche on Chile’s Monte San Lorenzo, and American snowboarder, climber, and mountain guide Liz Daley died in a slide just a few hours south in the Fitz Roy Massif region in Argentina.

At just 31, Andreas Fransson was respected across the ski world for his wisdom and love for the mountains. Photo courtesy Salomon

The blow is a massive one for the tight-knit ski and snowboard community just months before the start of the North American ski season. Auclair, 37, and Fransson, 31, were both accomplished in the high alpine and were part of a four-man group filming on the 12,159-foot Chilean peak when the avalanche occurred. According to reports from Chilean news website BioBio Chile, the slide happened on Monday afternoon, sweeping the men more than 2,000 feet down the mountain. Despite spotting bodies from the air, because of the remoteness of the location, recovery teams have been unable to reach the men. Powder magazine reports that Trey Cook, editor in chief of EpicTV, which is located in Chamonix, France—home base for Fransson—has stated that due to the avalanche occurring on the Argentina side of the peak, the Argentine government will be tasked with recovering the bodies.

Not far away, Daley, 29, was part of another expedition team in the same region when she was caught in a slide coming down from 7,000-foot Cerro Vespignani. The remaining four members of the Eddie Bauer–sponsored expedition team escaped unharmed. TransWorld Snowboarding continues to track the story.

Fransson nearly died in another avalanche in 2010, when a slide broke his neck on the Aiguille de Verte in the Mont Blanc Range, but had returned to form, skiing the first descent of Denali’s south face in 2011 and several exposed lines in the Andes since. He was a revered member of the ski mountaineering community, known for his intelligence in decision-making as well as his assessment of his own safety and skills. Fransson understood the dangers of his sport and worked to mitigate unnecessary risk.

Auclair was, in many ways, one of the godfathers of skiing in the modern era, leading the charge from moguls to the terrain park to big mountain. Perhaps best known to the action-sports world for his revolutionary street-skiing segment in the 2011 film “All.I.Can.,” Auclair quietly and skillfully put out some of the most iconic ski-movie segments of the last decade, showing off expertise in a variety of terrain and giving birth to the freeski movement as part of the New Canadian Air Force. But, perhaps more importantly, Auclair’s humility and willingness to teach made him a favorite among his peers and one of the best ambassadors his sport has ever seen.

After meeting in Chamonix a few years ago, Fransson and Auclair were in the midst of creating a new series, titled “Apogee Skiing,” when tragedy struck in the Southern Hemisphere.

Daley, an AMGA-certified mountain guide, was part of a group that included pro skier Drew Tabke and snowboarder Chris Coulter when snow broke loose on the descent of Cerro Vespignani Monday. Her body was recovered Monday night.

The public outpouring has been overwhelming, with major athletes in both skiing and snowboarding making their feelings clear over social media while countless others pay their respects to the trio as well. The ski and snowboard world said goodbye to three legends Monday, but it’s hard not to think that their unwavering influences will inspire for generations to come.

Visit Powder magazine for a video collection honoring Auclair and Fransson.

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