By John Stifter
Squaw Valley, CA (February 24, 2010) — Charles Russell Johnson III, 26, died earlier today while skiing at Squaw Valley, CA, on the Light Towers run off the Headwall lift.
According to eyewitness J.T. Holmes, who was riding on the Headwall lift and saw the accident, Johnson was skiing the steep run (according to Squaw Valley’s ski report, the mountain received 12-14 inches) comprised of tight chutes and countless exposed rocks. He lost control, struck a rock and immediately appeared lifeless. Despite wearing a helmet, he suffered immense trauma to his head and neck. Once at the top of the lift, Holmes notified the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol. They instantly skied to the scene and performed resuscitation to no avail.
“C.R. possessed a perspective for the mountains and the sport of skiing that transcended skiers all around the world to new heights,” says 4FRNT Skis’ Matt Sterbenz, who sponsored Johnson and assisted him in the design of C.R.’s pro model ski, the CRJ. Shortly after the accident, Sterbenz spoke to Johnson’s father, Russ, and Holmes. “His creative vision and positive personality brought the best out of anyone he ever met. He will remain a huge influence on my life and the many others that were fortunate to know him.”
An infectious skier and personality, Johnson filmed for ski industry leaders Teton Gravity Research and MSP Films before starting his own ski film production company with best friend and ski star Tanner Hall. The Truckee, CA, native and resident was a U.S. Open Big Air champion and two-time Winter X Games medalist (2001 Big Air bronze and 2002 Slopestyle silver).
Johnson suffered a traumatic brain injury in December 2005 when another skier landed on him while skiing inbounds at Brighton Ski Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. He was induced in a coma for 10 days during his 34-day stay at the University of Utah hospital before returning home to his parents’ house in the Tahoe area.
“C.R. was much more than an athlete to Smith Optics,” says Gabe Schroder, Ski Promotions Manager of Smith Optics one of the lone companies to continue a sponsorship of C.R. after his injury in 2005. “He was a friend, a brother, and an amazing person that we all believed in. We are deeply saddened by his passing and our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family.”
Recently, C.R. was taking online college classes in design while evolving his star-studded ski career. Appearing in Poor Boyz Productions 2009 release Everyday Is A Saturday and filming for Level 1 Productions during the 2009-10 winter, C.R. placed third at the Red Bull Linecatcher event a big mountain freestyle contest in Vars, France, on January 13, 2010, in a field of some of the world’s best skiers.
C.R. Johnson is survived by his parents Loraine and Russ and his older sister Kahlil. And the entire ski community.