Stowe Native Kasha Rigby Taken by Avalanche

Catherine “Kasha Rigbby” was born in Stowe, Vt in 1970. She became the star of multiple extreme skiing films, and a legendare telemark skier. Tragically,  , at 2:30 pm local time, on Feb. 13, 2024  Kasha lost her life at Brezovica resort under overcast skies and in challenging weather conditions with a temperature of -2 degrees Celsius.

 The cause of her untimely departure was extreme trauma to the chest, resulting in massive internal bleeding and damage to her organs, particularly her lungs. This trauma occurred during a skiing incident on a 35-degree slope, where she was tragically caught in a small avalanche. The avalanche, measuring approximately 25m x 10m, started at the cornice and led to a high-force collision with trees, crushing her between the avalanche and the trees. 
Kasha Rigby, photo by Marh McIntyre


Despite the swift response of her skiing partner and fiance, Magnus Wolfe, who reached her within 20 seconds and attempted resuscitation with CPR, Kasha’s injuries were too severe, and she passed away within seconds. They had planned a wedding for this coming fall at a castle in Scotland. 

This heartbreaking incident unfolded near the top where Kasha dropped in, triggering the avalanche that ultimately led to her tragic fate. She was found between two trees, and the shock and sorrow of the event are still reverberating within our community.

Our hearts go out to all those whose lives she touched. Rigby’s friend, Mary McIntyre shared this remembrance.

“Kasha” Rigby she started skiing as soon as she could walk and honed her skills on the East Coast ice, becoming a telemark skier as a teenager, before moving out to Crested Butte, Colorado where she began competing in telemark racing and extreme-skiing competitions at age 22. Her love for skiing and traveling were the driving force in her life.

She soon became known as a pioneering ski mountaineer. She had a love for experiencing different cultures, and skied first descents in the biggest mountain ranges of the world. She impacted generation after generation of skiers, so many of whom recall having posters of Rigby on their walls growing up. Pure and simple, she was a legend.

A 1996 article by Michael Finkel in Outside Magazine sums up Rigby’s feelings about skiing well: “Alpine skiers,’ says Rigby, a pioneer of extreme telemarking, ‘look like their feet are stuck in cement. Telly skiing is about mobility, rhythm, and balance.’ She pauses a moment, glancing down at her square-toed leather boots. ‘And, of course, speed,’ Rigby adds. ‘I love to go fast–really fast.”

Ace Kvale clearly remembers meeting her for the first time in the early 90’s. He was judging at a world Xtreme Ski Contest in Crested Butte when Rigby skied over to the judge’s stand and looked up at him. He looked into her deep blue eyes and smiling face. “I said to myself right then, you are going to be part of my life, and I’m going to be part of your life. I was immediately attracted to her. Not romantically, more like this is someone I need to know.”

Rigby’s boyfriend at the time was an incredible telemark skier, and after they both did well in the competition, Kvale partied with them late into the night. “I liked them so much, I invited them to ski volcanoes in Ecuador with me the following month.” The crew headed to Cotopaxi with Bob Mazari and Tom Winter, a writer for Powder Magazine. That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
Kvale and Rigby were housemates off and on for nearly a decade. She made it clear early on that she was never to be told what to do.

She was living an impulsive, non-stop travel-filled life after joining the North Face Team in 1995 and she skied all over the U.S., Canada, South America, New Zealand, Russia, Asia, Europe, India and the Middle East. She skied first descents on many of the world’s most revered peaks, including the Five Holy Peaks in Mongolia. She telemarked off the top of Cho Oyu with Hilaree Nelson and Willie Benegas in 2005, which was only the second and third time an 8000m peak had been skied by American women. When she was on the cover of Outside magazine’s Women Outside in Fall 1998, they credited her as being “the best female telemark skier in the known universe.” She and Kvale traveled to numerous continents on ski expeditions.They skied the highest peak in Siberia on the border of Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and China as part of a North Face expedition. They skied in Alaska many times with Doug Coombs, and did a frozen river trek to the remote enclave of Zanskar in the Indian Himalaya.

Over the years, Kvale’s desert home became a refuge for her. She wasn’t sure the rural town of Boulder, UT would have enough excitement for her, but soon fell in love with the wide open slickrock, slot canyons, endless exploring, fresh food, and the amazing Hell’s Backbone Restaurant that she worked at for many years. She changed the life of everyone she met in
Boulder, and it became her sanctuary. One of her nicknames was ‘Flight Risk,’ because she could drop everything and head off to another country in an instant.

Mary McIntyre became friends with Rigby through mutual acquaintances in the ski community as McIntyre was getting started as a photographer and ski mountaineer herself. The two immediately bonded over their love of travel, skiing, and the Utah desert. They shared incredible trips to the deep powder of British Columbia, the fjords of Iceland to ski by sailboat, and the equatorial rainforest of Uganda to summit the highest peak in the country and ski down the dwindling glaciers of the Rwenzori Mountains. She was a role model and mentor through the mountains and through life. As far as we know, she never compiled a full list of her mountaineering achievements, because that wasn’t what was important to her. It was the experiences themselves.

Rigby had a palpable spark, an inner fire. She was light-hearted yet driven and always on the move: let’s go here, let’s do this, let’s put sparkles on our cheekbones and do one more run. She was fun. She was the party. She was always ready to dance. She glowed from within with her love for the world and the people around her. She had that special energy where complete strangers would welcome her into their lives and into their home. She was a free-spirited adventurer, a kind and brilliant friend. As her friend Alexandra Fuller recalls, “She wore her femininity with ease, even in the most intimidating, masculine environments.”

Rigby had been skiing less over the past few years, as she first took a job in Nepal doing earthquake relief work in Kathmandu and then worked for the World Food Program for 3 years in Bangladesh, helping with the Rohingya refugee crisis. She enjoyed surfing with the local kids and bringing her trademark spark of joy to an otherwise devastatingly difficult situation in the world. There was always that deeper something that she was searching for, and it seemed that she’d finally found it in global disaster relief work. Most recently, she was working with her fiancé, Magnus Wolfe, doing earthquake relief work in Turkey.

The two were spending time skiing in Kosovo as they waited for her work visa to come through when a small avalanche dragged her through the trees, ending her life. They had planned to marry at a castle in Scotland this coming September, and all who knew her were looking forward to celebrating with the party of a lifetime. She always loved paths unknown, and she followed many of them throughout the beautiful winding trajectory of her life. She has touched so many lives, and we will all miss her dearly. As Kvale says, “Badass is one description of her that actually fits.”