Taos Ski Valley, NM (CBS/CNN) — A 26-year-old Mansfield man died Thursday after being trapped in a rare avalanche at Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico. Matt Zonghetti’s family said he was an expert skier.

“Skiing has been a passion of Matt’s since he was four,” his mother Sue Zonghetti told WBZ. When he was younger, Matt skied for the Gould Academy team at Sunday River in Maine.

Matt was on an annual ski trip with is father, who was at the base of the mountain when the avalanche struck.

“My husband went out, they were going to do a father/son ski trip this weekend and they never skied Taos, so they went to Taos and the trail was open, he went down,” Sue said.

Matthew Zonghetti (Family photo)

Dozens of people systematically searched the mountain for victims. Matt Zonghetti and another skier were pulled from the snow and given CPR.

He was a two-sport athlete at Mansfield High, and had recently taken a job in Denver, so his father flew out to visit before Matt started the new job.

“Matt Zonghetti was an outstanding Mansfield High School student athlete and citizen,” Mansfield schools superintendent Teresa Murphy said in a written statement Friday. “We are proud to consider him one of our own. His death is a tragic loss and our school community is heartbroken.”

The family’s Mansfield home was full of friends Friday. Matt’s best friend since they were eight, Nik Buscharis, said a bright light has been turned off. “He was one of the most driven, one of the most hard working, competitive people I’ve ever met,” Buscharis said. “Definitely my best friend, somebody that I looked up to my entire life.”

Matt’s sister, Kathryn, said he was the perfect brother. “We grew to just absolutely love each other and we were best friends,” Kathryn Zonghetti said. “He was my world and I loved him.”

It is not yet known what triggered Thursday’s avalanche.

Chris Stagg, vice president of public affairs for Taos Ski Valley, said the ski patrol team detonated explosives in the area where the avalanche occurred early Thursday morning. He said they do this every morning to prevent such tragedies.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)

  1. Leo Racicot says:

    This is heartbreaking. These daredevil sports can be so dangerous. God bless Matthew and his family.

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