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Extreme Exposure: Farewell to Stein Eriksen, heavy snows wreak havoc

Freeskiing pioneer Stein Eriksen dies at age 88, heavy snows wreak havoc in the West, while Lindsey Vonn continues to chase World Cup points.

In this week’s edition of Extreme Exposure—a weekly column featuring news and photography from the world of action and outdoor sports—the skiing world remembers Stein Eriksen, Teton Pass avalanche buries cars and more.

Goodbye to a Legend

Before the Olympics, the X Games and the mainstream acclaim that many of today’s freeskiers are enjoying, there was Stein Eriksen. Known as the “father of freestyle,” Eriksen died at the age of 88 at his home in Park City, Utah, this weekend.

The Norwegian born Eriksen won the gold medal in the giant slalom at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo and was one of skiing’s first true stars. Even after his Olympic career, he continued to push boundaries on skis: He was one of the first to throw flips (his signature front layout was a precursor to today’s inverted aerials) and his style was impeccable. In 1981, when Deer Valley opened in Park City, Eriksen was hired as the director of skiing, a post he would hold for 35 years. A mid-mountain lodge still bears his name.  “Stein’s presence on the mountain will be profoundly missed,” said Deer Valley’s Bob Wheaton. “His influence in the ski industry and at this resort was infinite and his legacy will always be a fundamental aspect of Deer Valley.”

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Heavy Snows Cause Havoc

The snow has been relentless in the West, and many resorts—and skiers and riders—are reaping the benefits after several years of drought. But the intense snows have also created some chaos. Fifteen-year-old snowboarder Reid Kyfiuk was found dead last week in an un-groomed area on Mount Washington on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. He was riding with his family when he split from the group for a run at the end of the day. He was found around 11p.m. by search crews. Reports hadn’t been confirmed, but from all accounts, it sounds as if he’d fallen in a tree well and was unable to free himself.

In Washington state, a search for missing backcountry skier Monty Busbee has been suspended several times because of avalanche danger. Busbee, 43, disappeared early last week near Snoqualmie Pass, east of Seattle, and is still missing.

Avalanche Danger Significant

The intense snowstorms have also created intense avalanche danger. A patrol member was caught in a slide at Utah’s Snowbasin Resort east of Ogden last week. And on Teton Pass near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where some 40 inches of snow fell, a skier-triggered avalanche buried three cars, according to Teton Gravity Research. The avalanche swept down the mountain and closed Highway 22’s westbound lane. “The road-cut at Twin Slide is one of the most critical spots along the highway when there is a ton of new snow. A slide there is guaranteed to hit the highway,” Linda Merigliano, of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, told the website. “More incidents like this could result in a much worse outcome for motorists, and [it] is a graphic reminder that access to skiing is dependent on skiers/boarders exercising some responsibility and consideration for other people.”

Two snowmobilers were also caught in a slide on Teton Pass Christmas Eve and one suffered a broken femur. The pair was able to self-rescue.

MORE EDGE: Breaking down the ’15-’16 ski, snowboard season

World Cup Update

Today in Lienz, Austria, Lindsey Vonn lost more ground in the World Cup overall standings when she finished with another DNF, missing a gate in the giant slalom. She’ll be chasing Lara Gut heading into the New Year as she’s expected to opt out of the final contest of 2015 Tuesday in Lienz, a race in slalom, Vonn’s weakest discipline.  According to NBC, after 13 scheduled events (there are 41 on the docket), Vonn trails by 158 points in the standings.

In one bright spot in a somewhat disappointing year so far on the men’s side, David Chodounsky of Crested Butte, Colo., finished in the top 10 of the World Cup slalom event in Madonna Di Campiglio, Italy, and currently sits third in the slalom World Cup standings, the only U.S. male in the top three of any of the individual event standings. This was the same event in which current World Cup champ Marcel Hirscher was nearly decapitated by a drone.