Two years ago, Matilda Rapaport, a Swedish extreme skier, survived an avalanche in Haines, Alaska.
“I was dragged all the way down the mountain, partially buried and couldn’t get myself out,’’ she said later. “That was a very scary experience. But I don’t want memories of being scared of avalanches.”
Rapaport continued to ski on peaks that could be reached only by helicopter and aspired to be next year’s Freeride World Tour ski champion. But another avalanche, this time in the Chilean Andes, claimed her life this month. She was 30.
She died on July 18 in a hospital in Santiago, four days after she was buried in snow. The cause was brain damage from oxygen deprivation, said her husband of only three months, Mattias Hargin, a Swedish Alpine World Cup skier and her high school sweetheart.
A winner of several world so-called freeride events, Rapaport had finished fourth in this year’s women’s ski standings of the Swatch-sponsored Freeride World Tour.
Rapaport, who was on the international Red Bull team, had appeared in many hair-raising ski films and videos, including “Shades of Winter” (2013), “Pure” (2014) and the coming “Between,” all produced by the Austrian pro skier Sandra Lahnsteiner. Rapaport was also a columnist for the Swedish magazine Women’s Health.
She loved to get on top of mountains previously considered unskiable and conquer them by descending, usually alone, by the most direct route. In her own words, she “charged down” rather than skied. Her only witnesses were usually photographers or cameramen in helicopters.
“I want to exceed expectations, especially my own limitations so that I can ski harder than before,’’ she said last year. “Of course I’m afraid sometimes. When you step out of the helicopter, which is still in the air, and you’re almost jumping out and you’re grabbing your skis and you need to hold on to that narrow little place filled with snow. And when the helicopter pulls away and you’re on your own, that feels pretty scary. But the moment I put my skis on, I feel confident. I know which way to go and how to get down.”
When she died Rapaport was making a video for a new extreme sports video game called Steep, by the French company Ubisoft.
To provide realistic footage for the game, Rapaport was alone while descending an Andean mountain above the Chilean village of Farellones near Santiago after a snowstorm had cleared. The powder snow was perfect for her and the filmmakers. But it was loose. Even beneath her crash helmet, she would have heard the roar of an avalanche. But she may have heard it too late. Her manager said she had apparently tried to outrun it.
In her backpack, she was carrying avalanche safety equipment — a homing beacon, a small shovel and an airbag inflated by pulling a rip cord. “She did not have time to release the airbag because she was so focused on outrunning the avalanche,” said her manager, Hakan Hansson. She was buried for at least half an hour before rescuers, alerted by the film crew, dug her out, unconscious.
Matilda Rapaport was born in Stockholm on Jan. 29, 1986, and started skiing at the age of 2 with “my ski bum dad and my ski instructor mom.” She studied at Are Alpine Senior High School, where she met Hargin, before graduating with an M.B.A. from the Stockholm School of Business.
In addition to her husband, survivors include her mother and her younger sister, Helena, a professional skier.
Her first big extreme ski win was in 2011 at the Scandinavian Big Mountain Championships, which claims to be the world’s first extreme skiing event, at Riksgränsen on the border between Sweden and Norway.
But her greatest success was winning the 2013 Xtreme Verbier competition at the Swiss winter resort, beating the world’s best in what is considered one of the most difficult events.
Interviewed last year, she said, “I think I will always be skiing, maybe not the way I do now, but I think I’ll be skiing when I’m 80.”