Pro athlete Matilda Rapaport killed while filming for Ubisoft

July 20, 2016 by Kris Ligman

The award-winning professional skier was caught in an avalanche while shooting footage for extreme sports game Steep.

As videogames continue to chase the elusive concept of 'realism,' they are going to greater and greater lengths to emulate film and the real-life sports that inspire them. In the case of Ubisoft's upcoming winter sports game Steep, which we first saw teased at last month's E3, verisimilitude means working with professionals to capture the raw experience of high-level extreme sports play.

Unfortunately, extreme sports carry with them some very real risks, even when you're doing it for a videogame. Such was the case for 30-year-old professional skier Matilda Rapaport, who on July 14th was caught in an avalanche while filming for Steep in the Andes mountains in Chile.

Avalanches can occur for a number of reasons, and despite knowing more about them than ever, they still claim lives on a pretty regular basis. Just two years ago, the bodies of two skiers were discovered on San Lorenzo Mountain, on the border between Chile and Argentina. On average, avalanches kill around 150 people each year -- and that number is going up, as a result of global warming.

Rapaport herself had been caught in an avalanche once before, while skiing in Alaska in 2014. She was recording then too -- you can see it in the video below, along with an interview reflecting back on her experience. To Rapaport, it was important to return to the Alaskan mountains to replace bad memories with new ones.

"What I really want when I’m skiing is to exceed […] my own expectations of what I’m capable of. I put a lot of pressure on myself -- but I love reaching those goals, that’s what takes me forward," says Rapaport in the above video.

When Rapaport was filming in the Andes this July 14th, it was just after a recent snowstorm, leaving the area more unstable than usual. Rapaport found herself buried beneath the snow, and though she was found and transported to a local hospital, she had already fallen into a coma. Rapaport passed away on July 18th, her death the result of oxygen deprivation and brain damage.

"Matilda was an extraordinary athlete, traveling the world to find her passion, ride steep terrain and share her bright smile," said a spokesperson for Red Bull, Rapaport's sponsor. 

"We are deeply saddened to learn [of] the death of Matilda Rapaport," added a spokesperson for Ubisoft. "This tragic accident has deeply touched us. Our hearts and prayers go out to her husband and her wider family at this difficult time."

Rapaport, who hails from Sweden, was an award-winning freeskiier who has appeared in a number of films and magazines. In 2011, she won the Scandinavian Big Mountain Championships, and in 2013 claimed the Xtreme Verbier event of the Freeride World Tour, the "world’s most prestigious and hardest freeride competition." Red Bull has compiled a tribute page for Rapaport, with quotes and photos from her friends and peers.

Top image source: Janina Kuzma on Instagram.