Experienced skier dies at Squaw Valley

February 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
There was a tragic reminder Wednesday night that skiing can be dangerous and even deadly. A well known X Games skier was killed in the Sierra. C.R. Johnson was on the slopes with friends at Squaw Valley when he took a terrible fall.

Johnson is a well-known professional free skier who competed in the Winter X Games, so his death comes as quite a shock among those in the extreme skiing community.

Johnson grew up in Squaw Valley and he was skiing at the resort's Light Towers area when he fell. Witnesses say the 26-year-old went face-first over his skis and onto his head in a rocky area.

Squaw Valley's ski patrol says he was wearing a helmet, but the impact was just too severe. Johnson was reportedly skiing recreationally with friends at the time of the accident, not part of any competition. Witnesses say Johnson caught his edge on some exposed terrain, lost his balance, then hit several rocks before ending up several hundred yards below the ridge.

"You never know, an accident could happen. You know, we ski at a very high velocity," said skier Tom Burton.

"It's mind boggling. I still can't accept it. I'm going to wake up tomorrow and go, 'Really?'" said Johnson's friend Scott Gaffney.

Five years ago, Johnson suffered a life-threatening injury during a competition that put him in a coma for several months. Clearly, it is a sport that carries a high-degree of risk.

In addition to free skiing, Johnson competed in superpipe and halfpipe events.

Olympic skier Julia Muncuso, also from Squaw Valley, tweeted about Johnson's death while in Vancouver. She says her heart and prayers go to everyone at home and Johnson's family.

Back in 2005, Johnson also won San Francisco's ICER Air big-air ski competition when it was first held on Fillmore Street.

Squaw Valley released the following statement early Wednesday evening:

This afternoon, lifelong Squaw Valley and Freeride team member, CR Johnson sustained a fatal fall skiing the Light Towers area. Witnesses reported that CR caught his edge on some exposed rocks as he initiated his first turn and fell downhill. CR impacted several rocks before coming to rest several hundred yards below the ridge.

Witnesses immediately notified ski patrol and medical personnel arrived on scene within minutes. Despite efforts to revive CR, he succumbed to his injuries. CR was wearing a helmet at the time of the incident.

The Light Towers area is expert terrain located up the ridge line from the Cornice II lift. As a professional skier, CR was no stranger to the Light Towers and had skied the area throughout his inspiring skiing career. CR has been a part of the Squaw Valley Family since birth and will be greatly missed. The loss of CR will deeply affect not only the local skiing community but skiers worldwide. Our condolences go out to his friends and family.