Utah woman, ‘pioneer of extreme telemarking,’ dies in avalanche

Kasha Rigby appeared in a Warren Miller film and ‘Ultimate Survival Alaska.’

(Mary McIntyre) Utah resident Kasha Rigby, 54, died in an avalanche in Kosovo on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. She was known as "the pioneer of extreme telemarking."

A Utah woman heralded as “the pioneer of extreme telemarking” died Tuesday after being swept up in an avalanche at a ski resort in Kosovo.

Catherine “Kasha” Rigby, 54, challenged the common conceptions of telemarking with a hard-charging, aggressive style that earned her entry into such events as the 1996 U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Championships. In 1998, she appeared on the cover of Outside magazine, which dubbed her “the best female telemark skier in the known universe.”

“Alpine skiers look like their feet are stuck in cement,” Rigby said in that article. “Telly skiing is about mobility, rhythm, and balance.

“And, of course, speed. I love to go fast — really fast.”

(Mary McIntyre) Utah resident Kasha Rigby, 54, died in an avalanche in Kosovo on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. She was known as "the pioneer of extreme telemarking."

Rigby appeared in the Warren Miller film “Cold Fusion” in 2001 and, according to Ski, “Ultimate Survival Alaska” Season 3 in 2015. She also skied first descents on mountains across the world, including Lebanon, India, Mongolia and the Baffin Islands.

Rigby was at the Brezovica resort in Kosovo with her fiance, Magnus Wolfe Murray, while awaiting a work visa to perform earthquake relief in Turkey, according to her friend Eric Henderson. They were skiing in freezing, overcast conditions on a 35-degree slope when she was caught in a small avalanche. Euronews Abania reported that the Kosovo Mountain Search and Rescue Service had received a call for help in the “Eagle’s Nest” area, which “is known as a dangerous area from avalanches.”

Rigby is believed to have triggered the slide, which measured roughly 75 feet long and 30 feet wide. It careened through a wooded area and Rigby is believed to have hit at least one tree. She was found between two trees having suffered damage to her organs, particularly her lungs, which caused “massive internal bleeding.” Murray reached her within 20 seconds, according to reports around the avalanche, but she died nearly instantly.

(Ace Kvale) Pioneer extreme telemark skier Kasha Rigby lived in Salt Lake City but in recent years had been helping with earthquake relief efforts in Turkey. She died at age 54 Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, after being caught in an avalanche in Kosovo.

“Kasha was bigger than skiing,” longtime Backcountry editor Adam Howard, told the magazine in a tribute. “Among so much more, she embodied compassion and free-spiritedness. The whole outdoor and ski world is just gutted to lose such a special soul. There was a magic in her.”

Rigby grew up in Stowe, Vermont, where she became a telemark skier as a teenager. She later moved to Crested Butte, Colorado, to compete and later to Salt Lake City.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with funeral expenses and as a benefit to the relief charities Rigby had become involved with in recent years.