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Winter X Games freeskier C.R. Johnson dies in skiing accident at Squaw Valley

February 25, 2010 | 12:03 pm

Johnson2 Professional freeskier C.R. Johnson died Wednesday on the slopes at Squaw Valley USA after hitting his head on a rock outcropping, the Associated Press reports.

Johnson, 26, was skiing with a group of friends when he fell while trying to negotiate a "very, very tight, rocky area," in a part of the resort known as the Light Towers area, said Jim Rogers, a member of the resort's ski patrol.

Johnson fell face-first, then spun around and struck the back of his head on rocks. Johnson was wearing a helmet at the time of the fall, but Rogers said the helmet took a serious blow.

The ski patrol was contacted shortly before 2 p.m. and tried to revive Johnson on the slopes, but were unsuccessful, according to Placer County Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Ausnow.

Johnson was a familiar sight on the slopes of the Lake Tahoe-area resort, where his father had been an avalanche forecaster.

"This is a man of very, very strong skiing talent," Rogers said. "This young man had been a fixture here at Squaw Valley for years.... He grew up at Squaw Valley."

Johnson was a regular halfpipe contender in Winter X Games competitions until 2005, and is credited for being the first skier to land a 1440 at age 15.

In December 2005, Johnson, filming at Utah's Brighton Ski Resort, suffered a head injury that left him in a coma and resulted in a 34-day hospitalization.

Scott Gaffney, co-director of Matchstick Productions and a good friend of Johnson's, told the Tahoe Daily Tribune that the Tahoe community lost "an inspiration and a happy person" in Johnson.

"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. He just had the greatest outlook on life and was happy to be doing what he was doing."

Johnson, whose first name was Charles, had the following posted on his MySpace page:

I feel it's most important to keep it real and enjoy each moment, you know, take advantage of every opportunity life provides, because who knows what tomorrow may bring.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Freeskier C.R. Johnson competing in the men's superpipe at X Games 9 in Aspen, Colo. Credit: Matt Morning / Shazamm / ESPN Image

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