Friends and family remember snowboarder who died at China Peak

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Tragedy strikes the slopes as winter conditions prove deadly for a local snowboarder. Family and friends are mourning the loss of 36-year-old Blake Smith.

RELATED: Snowboarder dies at China Peak after falling head-first into deep powder

It was supposed to be an entire weekend on the slopes, celebrating the fresh powder up at China Peak. But Sunday, Blake's friends took a run down the slopes in memory of him.

I caught up with friends and family who say they're finding a way to make sure his memory lives on.

"He was like, 'It's finally coming! The powder is coming.' That's all he would talk about. He was so in love with snowboarding," said Amador Montemayor, Blake's friend.

The start of a snow-filled weekend getaway with friends was marked by tragedy Friday afternoon.

"He went out doing what he loved," said Amador Montemayor, Blake's friend.

Montemayor recounted his final moments snowboarding with his best friend.

"I looked up and we saw his board. And we were like, 'Okay, it's just another average wipeout. It's okay, he's going to come down,'" said Montemayor.

Blake Smith suffocated after falling head-first into deep snow on the slopes. Officials say Smith had gone off the prepared runs, which can be dangerous, especially with the more than six feet of new snow in the last week.

Montemayor says a nearby skier overheard the commotion and tried to help but it was too late, and they were too far down the run.

"The snow was so thick it was just super soft," said Montemayor.

He said that he's thankful he is left with fond memories of their countless trips to the snow. Hoping to solidify a top ranking in the powder alliance, the pair were planning several trips at the end of this month.

"He was really intelligent super fun. Always laughing always smiling like good times no matter what," said Montemayor.

"The love he has for other people and how unselfish he is, is what makes Blake," said Ashley Siipola, Blake's girlfriend.

Siipola says when she was diagnosed with cancer last September, Blake was her rock.

"Not only did he stay with me in the hospital, he became my everything, my best friend, my doctor, my cook," said Siipola.

The Fresno State graduate was interning at a farming operation in Kingsburg. In his spare time, his mom says he would fix up formula one cars with his dad in the South Valley.

Friends and family say they'll don "Ride for Blake" stickers on their snowboards in tribute to Blake.

Blake's mom did not want to be on camera but said they are planning a memorial sometime this week. They're asking friends and family to check his Facebook page for updates.
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