Truckee skier C.R. Johnson killed in ski accident at Squaw Valley |

Truckee skier C.R. Johnson killed in ski accident at Squaw Valley

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Aspen, CO Colorado
Ryan Salm/Sierra Sun fileC.R. Johnson grew up skiing at Squaw Valley USA, where he made a name for himself as a young prodigy in the park and pipe.

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Truckee’s C.R. Johnson, who made a name for himself as a teenager as one of the most progressive freeskiers in the industry, died Wednesday at Squaw Valley USA.

He was 26.

According to a Squaw press release, witnesses reported Johnson was skiing the Light Towers area near Headwall when he caught an edge on some exposed rock as he initiated a turn. He impacted several rocks before coming to rest several hundred yards below, according to the release.

Jim Rogers, a member of Squaw’s ski patrol, told The Associated Press he fell face-first, then spun around and hit the back of his head on rocks. Johnson was wearing a helmet, which Rogers said took a serious blow.

Medical personnel arrived within minutes to revive Johnson, according to the Squaw release, but he died on the slopes, said Placer County Sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Ausnow.

Scott Gaffney, co-director of Matchstick Productions and a good friend of Johnson’s, said the North Lake Tahoe community lost “an inspiration and a happy person” in Johnson, who always had a smile on his face and a positive attitude.

“I’m going to remember a lot of things about C.R.; we traveled all over the world together. But I think the thing most people are going to remember is his smiling face,” Gaffney said. “He was a pretty special person, especially after his injury several years ago. He just had the greatest outlook on life and was happy to be doing what he was doing.”

Before a December 2005 skiing accident that left him in a coma for 10 days, Johnson was a regular halfpipe contender in Winter X Games competitions, and is credited for being the first skier to land a 1440 (four rotations) in the park, at age 15.

In that 2005 accident, Johnson suffered a head injury while filming at Brighton Ski Resort in Utah. It was a freak incident, as Johnson and several other skiers were jumping off a small natural feature in succession when Johnson fell at the front of the line, and a trailing Kye Peterson collided into him, opening a gash above his eyebrow and knocking him unconscious.

He was released from the hospital after a 34-day stay, returning to Truckee to continue therapy with Ladd Williams of Bear Bones Physical Therapy.

The following winter, after steady progression in his recovery, Johnson dedicated a six-week trip along with friend Tanner Hall to re-learning his tricks in the halfpipe. But he never overcame his fear returning to the freestyle discipline he helped pioneer, and soon gave up halfpipe skiing altogether.

“It didn’t really come back to me,” Johnson said in a 2006 Sierra Sun interview. “I got to a certain point that was nowhere near where I used to be in the pipe, and then I stopped progressing. So I gave up the idea of trying to compete in halfpipe.”

Johnson instead pursued filming as he took his skiing away from the pipe and park and into the backcountry. Johnson appeared in a number of ski films, including “Believe” and “Seven Sunny Days,” which told his story of recovery after the head injury.

This season he was reportedly skiing strongly, as he recorded a third-place finish behind Candide Thovax and Sean Pettit in the Red Bull Linecatcher competition in the French Alps.

“He was grateful for everything he had,” Gaffney said. “He definitely didn’t take life, and his way of life, for granted.”

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