Avalanche kills two skiers in Japan's Nagano region

One of two foreign men swept up in an avalanche in Japan while back-country skiing in the central prefecture of Nagano and found without vital signs on Monday (local time) was US professional skier Kyle Smaine, an outdoor magazine said.

The men were among five foreigners engulfed in Sunday's avalanche, which took place at about 2:30pm (0530 GMT) on the eastern slope of Mount Hakuba Norikura in the ski resort, a Nagano police spokesperson said.

Police declined to confirm details about the men, whom media said were from Austria and the United States, but outdoor magazine "Mountain Gazette" said in its online edition that the US skier was Kyle Smaine, 31.

"It is with great sadness we report beloved South Lake Tahoe Professional Skier Kyle Smaine has died in an avalanche in Japan," the magazine wrote.

It said that Smaine, on a work trip to the area, was taking a free ski at the end of the day with several other skiers when the avalanche occurred.

Police had earlier said that the five men were skiing in two separate groups on the mountain, which is 2469-m (8,100-ft) high. The other three skiers had climbed down the mountain on their own on Sunday.

Weather authorities had issued an avalanche warning for the area, following heavy snowfall in the past few days.