Tributes pour in for Kiwi skier killed in avalanche in Austria

The Kiwi teenager killed in an avalanche in Austria has been identified as 17-year-old Will Cookson, a promising young skiing champion from Canterbury. 

The teen was reportedly among three killed in a series of avalanches in western Austria on Saturday local time, according to the news agency Austria Press Agency (APA).

Tourists from China and Germany were also among the dead. 

APA reported Cookson was alone in the open ski area at about 12:15pm when the avalanche swept through, but the exact details of the tragedy have not been officially confirmed.

Cookson was in Austria to compete at the Freeride Junior World Champs, according to the Inspire Foundation, who gave him a grant to help him compete. 

A source told NZ Herald Cookson was "not skiing alone, nor in an open ski area" and was with a small group of New Zealanders "abiding the current safety rules".

Tributes have been pouring in for the 17-year-old who has been described as "an amazing young man and talented skier".

A friend of Cookson posted on social media saying, "ski in peace bro". 

"Another good soul taken far too early. Every interaction I had with Will was positive, and I know how well loved he was within the NZ ski community," the friend posted. 

Another friend posted, "rest easy Will, miss you so much already. You will be remembered".  

Someone else posted, "RIP. Keep flying like you do" while a further friend posted, "Can’t believe your gone mate, missing you more and more as time goes by, rest easy big fella, you will never be out of my thoughts, last 3 weeks was all time." 

Cookson began competing as a nine-year-old and he won the U16 New Zealand Junior Freeride Tour series in 2021 and the U18 event in 2023, according to the Inspire Foundation. 

Cookson is survived by his parents and two siblings.

Cookson was one of 10 people killed in several avalanches across the Austrian and Swiss Alps over the weekend.