A life lived at full throttle has come to a tragic end for a former top skier, who died in Japan during an adventure on the slopes.
Mark Hunter, 34, a former New Zealand representative skier, died in a Japanese hospital last month, days after suffering a brain aneurysm.
Hours before he collapsed, Mark sent an excited message to his father, Gil, in Upper Hutt.
"Amazing food, fantastic snow, spectacular scenery and great facilities. Right! Clear your schedule for 2014! We're going to Japan," it read.
Mr Hunter yesterday spoke fondly of his son, who had an array of passions ranging from skiing to mountainbiking to model trains.
Despite two "blown" knees, Mark became a top mogul skier, representing New Zealand from 1997 to 2000, his father said. "He never let anything slow him down." Mark's passion for skiing continued after he ceased competing.
It was that passion that led Mark and his Wellington City Council workmate and friend Andrew Shakes to book a trip to Japan last month.
The second day's skiing began in blizzard conditions.
After finishing a run, Mr Shakes went inside a lodge to tell people the weather was OK to ski.
When he came back outside, Mark had collapsed in the snow.
Back home in Upper Hutt, Mr Gil got the call every parent dreads, and immediately flew to Japan.
"I had hoped there was some chance for a recovery.
"But I was soon told the damage was too great. It was a bit of a kick in the teeth really."
The aneurysm had probably been building for years before rupturing.
Mark's family gathered around his bedside for five days before he died on February 23. They played his favourite music, while his father read The Hobbit to him.
"It felt good but it was incredibly sad at the same time.
"I knew he wasn't there any more but it felt right."
The family experienced great kindness from the Japanese doctors and nurses, Mr Hunter said.
"They were very respectful, and they treated him with such dignity."
It was some consolation that Mark had died on one of his many adventures.
"These times were very special for me, for I saw Mark in his element, where if he could, he would have been every day of his life," Mr Hunter said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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