Ski community mourns death of freeskier Ryan Hawks

The ski community is reeling from the death of up and coming big mountain skier Ryan Hawks, who died from injuries sustained during a run at the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour at Kirkwood in California. From the tour to the skier's home hill in Vermont, friends and fans are mourning the loss.

Skiers from Vermont to California are reeling from the death of Ryan Hawks this week. The 25-year-old freeskiing competitor died Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 after sustaining head, back, lung and kidney injuries during a run at the Freeskiing World Tour event on Sunday, February 27th, in Kirkwood, California.

Hawks performed a backflip off a large cliff during his run, landed on his feet, but then collapsed from injuries that apparently were incurred from hitting a patch of hardpack snow. Hawks was immediately airlifted to a Reno, Nevada hospital. He reportedly appeared to have stabilized by Monday, but then succumbed to his injuries the following day.

A member of the Green Mountain Freeride team, Hawks grew up skiing at Mad River Glen, and took the winters off to compete in freeskiing while pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Vermont. By Wednesday, the Mad River Glen website, along with the Freeride World Tour site, ESPN, POWDER and The Ski Channel were among the sites posting remembrances.

“Ryan had a way of making everyone around him happier with simply a flash of his smile. His recent visit back to Mad River Glen came with a lot of snow which Ryan certainly took advantage of,” reads a portion of the post at the General Stark’s Pub & Grill blog, which is part of the Mad River Glen homepage. “Our hearts go out to his parents Peter and Jackie and his sister Alicia, as well as all of his friends and family. Ryan was and will continue to be a huge inspiration to all of us. We miss you Ryan. Rest In Peace.”

Snowsports public relations professional and Mad River skier Sue Killoran said she was at the ski area when news broke of Hawks’ death, and added that the local kids at the area will be especially be affected by his accident. “My kids are on the freeride team and my eldest, Nik, just skied with him when the Green Mountain Freeride Boys were back (on) Feb. 21st,” she said. “Nik remembers him fondly and of him giving him a thumbs up on one of the runs they took. The whole team was in awe at Ryan's backflips. He will be missed.”

On the Freeskiing World Tour site, a portion of the posted eulogy reads, “When Ryan was nine years old, he skied the headwall at Tuckerman's ravine and from that point forward was hooked on big mountain skiing. When Ryan wasn’t in school in Vermont, he was skiing with friends and fellow Mad River Glen athletes Lars and Silas Chickering-Ayers. Together, they cruised the continent living out of a van called The General, searching for fresh powder and adventures.”

Hawks had recently signed a sponsorship deal with TecnicaUSA/Blizzard Sport USA, and traveled to South America with the brands' freeride team manager Frank Shine last summer. “My good friend Ryan passed away doing what he loved, and that is what I think of right now,” said Shine. “We all loved watching Ryan ski, but even more seeing how he lived his life. It is truly amazing that in such a short time, Ryan's infectious attitude and passion for life touched so many. I am so grateful that I was lucky enough to know him, and now I hope to move on with him in my mind and heart every day.”

Hawks’ own homepage,, carries a personal note about the late skier’s passion for the sport, “My father always said, 'A skier carries his own skis.' - so I learned how to carry my batman skies (sic) by the age of two and have been skiing ever since.”

Sara Waldman, senior communications manager at Mountain Sports International, which organizes the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour, said that a gathering to remember Hawks was held on the night of March 1st at Donner’s Pass in Tahoe. She added that, “We are also putting something together for our Finals in Snowbird next week.”--Peter Kray

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