In 1995, Davo Karnicar became the first person to successfully ski down Nepal's Annapurna from the top, the lead-in to a more high-profile descent he'd complete five years later: He became the first person to ski nonstop from the summit of Mount Everest to base camp. He went on to do the same uninterrupted run of the highest peaks—the so-called Seven Summits—on all the other continents, claiming the title of "first" for that accomplishment as well in November 2006, per the New York Times. Now, somber news about the extreme athlete deemed "skier of the impossible" by Planet Mountain and an "underappreciated legend" by Outside: Karnicar died Sept. 16 in a tree-cutting accident in his native Slovenia. He was 56. "It seems unreal that he met his destiny a stone's throw from his doorstep," one of his sponsors, Elan Skis, said online.
Karnicar's passion for skiing began as a boy, when he'd hit the slopes before school in the morning. He went on to compete for Yugoslavia's national alpine ski team, then to make about 1,700 climbs and descents on mountains around the globe. He was "unstoppable," as per a documentary made about him, though danger always lurked: One of his brothers died in 1995 during a ski training exercise; his best friend and climbing partner, Franc Oderlap, was killed by falling ice in 2009 while he was with Karnicar on Manaslu. Still, Karnicar felt skiing was his destiny. "Everyone has a gift," he told the Times of London before his 1995 feat on Annapurna. "I know how to ski. Someone else might know how to drive a Formula One car." Karnicar leaves behind his wife, Petra; seven children; and two grandchildren. (Read more obituary stories.)