J.P. Auclair: Canadian skier dies in Chile avalanche

Auclair filmed memorable All.I.Can. segment on West Kootenay streets.

J.P. Auclair, whose ski exploits through the streets of Trail, Rossland and Nelson became an Internet sensation, was one of two professional skiers who died in an avalanche in Chile.

Chilean searchers on Tuesday found the bodies of Auclair and Sweden’s Carl Andreas Fransson who had been missing since an avalanche swept them away while they were hiking in the country’s south.

Armada Skis, a company in California, confirmed to The Canadian Press that one of the missing hikers was the firm’s co-founder, Quebec freeskier JP Auclair, but offered no further comment pending permission from his family.

Auclair is best remembered locally as the skier who put Trail on the urban-skiing map. The 2011 clip from the movie “All.I.Can.” generated over one million views online and can be viewed at https://sherpascinema.com/project/jp-auclair-street-segment/

In an interview with Powder.com on the eve of the 2012 Powder Awards, Auclair recalled setting the stage for his ski exploits through West Trail.

“At the beginning, it was talking to neighbors and knocking on peoples’ doors, and just hanging out in the town of Trail. We spent a lot of time there and, by the end, people started to get to know us and we’d actually hang out with the local people while we were skiing. That was a really cool experience.

“And that all started when we started knocking on peoples’ doors to see if we could ski through their backyards.

“Kids walking back from school would be our spotters for the street, to make sure no cars were coming across.

“For the most part, it was a super small crew—Dave (Mossop) and I, and Eric Crosland came for a couple of days, and a couple of Dave’s friends came for a couple of days as well. But sometimes it was just the two of us, plus kids coming back from school, or neighbors spotting cars for us.”

“He was a creator,” said former Canadian Freestyle Skiing Association CEO Peter Judge. “He saw the world in a different way.”

Judge, now Own The Podium’s winter sport director, was a coach when Auclair was first starting out with the freestyle development team in the mid-1990s.

He told the Canadian Press his reaction to the video of Auclair skiing through Trail.

“I was astounded when I saw it,” Judge said. “Just how much it nailed who J.P. was and what went on in his mind and what his legacy inside of what he gave to the sport.”

The grim news prompted an outpouring of grief from the ski industry and the pair’s fans.

The Canadian Freestyle Ski Association said on Twitter it was “shocked & deeply saddened” by Auclair’s sudden death.

“He was a legendary skier & his presence in the sport will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this very difficult time,” the organization said.

Olympic skier Jenn Heil was one of several professional athletes expressing their grief online.

“With heavy hearts we say goodbye to @AuclairJP You were a bright light who changed the face of skiing. RIP,” she wrote.

Authorities said Auclair and Fransson arrived in the Aysen region of Chile’s Patagonia on Thursday along with two other tourists from Sweden.

They had been hiking the 11,800-foot (3,600-meter) San Lorenzo mountain, and disappeared when a wall of rocks and snow cascaded down Tuesday, dragging them to a stream in Argentine territory.

The two survivors in the group were treated at a local hospital, and police said they provided information to help locate the bodies.

The regional director of Chile’s Emergency Service, Sidi Bravo, said 90 per cent of the people who go missing in the hard-to-reach area are never found.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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