Freeskier Dies at competition

Freeskier Ryan Hawks died Tuesday morning from injuries sustained in a crash at the North American Freeskiing Championshipsat Kirkwood, Calif., which ended Monday. He was 25 years old.

Hawks, who is originally from Vermont but has been living in Utah, threw a backflip off a large cliff on Kirkwood’s Cirque on Sunday at the Freeskiing World Tour and crashed upon landing. Ski patrol immediately tended to his injuries and he was taken by helicopter to Reno’s Renown Health Center, where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

Dan Davis, spokesperson for Renown Health, confirmed Hawks’ death Tuesday morning. According to Reno’s Washoe County Medical Examiner, Hawks’ cause of death is currently pending examination.

Hawks was part of a hard-charging group of Vermont-born skiers called Green Mountain Freeride. On their website, Hawks wrote, “My father always said, ‘A skier carries his own skis,’ so I learned how to carry my batman skis by the age of two and have been skiing ever since … I grew up on the slopes and was instilled with a deep passion and respect for my surroundings by those very same mountains. Three years ago, I hitched a ride west and have been here every winter since.”

“We’d all agree he was one of the happiest people we’d ever met,” said Hawks’ close friend Lars Chickering Ayers, also a member of Green Mountain Freeride and a competitor in the Freeskiing World Tour. “He brought that to the ski community. He was loved by everyone he met. He was always positive and that was his way of being.”

Hawks’ passing marks the third death to a competitor in a big-mountain freeskiing contest in the last few years. In 2008, 27-year-old Aspen local John Nicoletta died from injuries sustained while competing in the Freeskiing World Tour Championships at Alyeska, and in 2007, Swiss skier Neal Valiton passed away after a crash at an International Freeskiers Association competition in Tignes, France. Severe injuries have been to numerous to report. In February a 15 year old was crippled for life at a Junior Freeskiing competition in BC . One has to question who is sanctioning these events?