Japan police said Tuesday they have confirmed the identities of the two men killed in an avalanche in Nagano Prefecture as a former world champion skier from the United States and an Austrian man.

One of the victims was Kyle Smaine, a professional freestyle skier from California who won the halfpipe event at the 2015 world championships. He described the appeal of ski resorts in Japan in an Instagram post before the accident, which occurred in Otari on Sunday.

"This is what brings me back to Japan each winter. Unbelievable snow quality, non-stop storms, and really fun terrain that seems to get better (the) more exploring you do," wrote Smaine, 31.

In the accident, the rush of snow overtook Smaine and the other victim, 30-year-old Christoph Schoefegger of Austria, who had been skiing in a separate group of three, the police said.

The avalanche occurred on a slope at an altitude of some 2,100 meters near the Tsugaike Mountain Resort as the skiers were moving through a backcountry area.

Photo taken in January 2018 shows U.S. freestyle skier Kyle Smaine after winning a World Cup halfpipe event in California. (Getty/Kyodo)