On Monday, Red Bull announced that professional skier Matilda Rapaport had passed away. Rapaport was filming a freeride skiing video in Andes mountains in Chile following a major snowstorm when she was caught in an avalanche. She was saved from the avalanche, but suffered oxygen deprivation and brain damage, and sadly died at the hospital.
"Matilda was an extraordinary athlete, traveling the world to find her passion, ride steep terrain and share her bright smile," Red Bull, Rapaport's sponsor since 2013, said in a statement to the Guardian.
Rapaport was a veteran of the freeride skiing community. She won the Scandinavian Big Mountain Championships in 2011 and the season finals of the Freeride World Tour. Rapaport also starred in the Shades of Winter freeride skiing films, including Shades of Winter, Pure, and the upcoming Between.
Though Red Bull did not mention it in their lengthy memorial article to Rapaport, she was filming a promotional video for Ubisoft's new winter sports game Steep at the time. A few days ago, she shared a post on her Instagram with the hashtag #STEEPgame. Ubisoft released a statement to GameSpot about the tragedy.
"We are deeply saddened to learn the death of Matilda Rapaport, the remarkable Swedish freeskiing athlete," said an Ubisoft spokesperson. "During a video production in Chile on Thursday, July 14th, Matilda was caught in an avalanche. Despite the medical care and treatment over the subsequent days, it was not possible to save her life."
"Matilda's courage, passion, and desire to share the sport she loved with the world served as an inspiration for other athletes and for us all. This tragic accident has deeply touched us. Our hearts and prayers go out to her husband and her wider family at this difficult time."
Rapaport's death highlights the severe dangers of such an amazing sport. Freeride skiing and snowboarding is done on steep, natural mountain ranges, which can be unpredictable. In 2014, extreme skier Jean-Philippe Auclair and National Geographic videographer Carl Andreas Fransson both died in an avalanche in Chile's Patagonia region. That same year, Rapaport herself was caught in another avalanche in Alaska.
"I had a lot of bad memories from last year and I came back to create new ones, many good memories... because there are so many things here that I love," Rapaport said about returning to skiing after the avalanche. "What I really want when I'm skiing is to exceed [...] my own expectations of what I'm capable of. I put a lot of pressure on myself – but I love reaching those goals, that's what takes me forward."
I myself am deathly afraid skiing and snowboarding in real life, despite my love of winter sports in general and the latter sport in particular. That's why I watch winter sports videos, play games like SSX, and look forward to further titles like Steep; it's a connection to a sport I am unlikely to directly participate in. I am constantly impressed and thankful for those brave and talented athletes like Rapaport who put themselves in amazing situations and share them with the rest of us. She will be missed and my condolences to her family for the loss.