Matilda Rapaport, the Swedish big mountain skiing star, has died after being caught in an avalanche in Chile. Recently married this summer to Swedish World Cup skier Mattias Hargin, she was 30 years old. One of the sport’s premier female freeriders, Rapaport was reportedly on a film shoot outside Farallones when the avalanche hit her on Thursday. According to friend and photographer Mattias Fredriksson, Rapaport had been under the snow for a lengthy time before rescuers could reach her. The accident left her in a coma over the weekend. “Due to complications resulting from lack of oxygen, Matilda passed away today,” Fredriksson wrote on Facebook.
“Matilda was such an amazing person, always happy and with a positive attitude toward life and skiing,” he said. “She was a phenomenal role model for other women skiers and also pushed the boundaries in big mountain skiing. My thoughts are with her husband and their family. I cannot even understand how it feels for them in this tragic moment, but I hope we all can remember the great memories of Matilda. She never took things for granted. Instead, she was grateful for all the opportunities that came her way.”
Johan Jonsson, a fellow Swede living in Engelberg, Switzerland, who attended Rapaport’s wedding, had this to say about her tragic death.
“It’s difficult to find words. It’s easier to think about how unfair it is, easier to ask why it always seems to be the best human beings that leave us too early, and easier to scream and cry,” he said. “Matilda and her way of approaching life and people was a big inspiration to me, and I hope that she will stand as a great example in the future. Always positive, never judging. Very smart. But most of all extremely warm and kind. Skiing with her was always the way skiing should be—fun.”
Alicia Cenci, head of account management for the Freeride World Tour, confirmed in a statement that the lack of oxygen Rapaport suffered meant that her life could not be saved. She noted that Hargin and Rapaport’s mother are in Chile at her side.
“This is a huge shock for the freeride community and the FWT family,” Cenci said. “Matilda was the embodiment of excellence, on and off the mountain. She marked the history of female freeskiing and will be deeply missed. The FWT is sending its thoughts, deepest sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of Matilda Rapaport during this very difficult time.”
Born and raised in Stockholm, Rapaport started skiing at an early age and climbed the ranks of ski racing. As a student at Stockholm School of Economics, she got her first pair of fat skis at the age of 20 and fell in love with big mountain skiing. Part of the “Swedish invasion” of Engelberg, Rapaport had been living and skiing in the Alps since 2009. For three years she managed the Ski Lodge, the central gathering spot for Engelberg’s passionate freeriding community. She began competing on the Freeride World Qualifier Tour for a couple of years before qualifying for the World Tour in 2013. She took second place in the first FWT event ever and won the Verbier Extreme in 2013 after entering as a wildcard. POWDER featured her on the cover of the December 2015 cover, navigating a steep spine in Haines, Alaska.
One of the athletes from the 2013 all-female film Shades of Winter, Rapaport said the most important part of skiing for her “is the state of mind I find myself in when skiing deep snow with friends.”
POWDER sends its deepest condolences to Rapaport’s family and friends.