By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
On Tuesday, Rex Shepard and three friends tested out the snow conditions and did a few runs down Paulina Peak.
On the fifth run, they skied to a different side of the mountain to try something new.
“The snow conditions were completely different. We shouldn’t have gone to that aspect,” Shepard said. “We should have gone with what we knew.”
Shepard’s ski partner cut across the slope and triggered an avalanche. Luckily, the friend was in a safe zone.
When the snow stopped moving, Shepard cut across the slope to follow him. A snow slab broke off above him and pushed him down the mountain.
“I thought that was it,” Shepard said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
He fell 800 feet and over a cliff, dislocating his shoulder, but he made it out alive.
“I’m a professional ski coach, a very experienced back country skier,” Shepard said. “You can think you did everything right and still make mistakes.”
Shepard says his avalanche training has helped save his life in the back country.
“Rex is a very experienced skier and still found himself triggering an avalanche,” Kevin Grove, avalanche training instructor at COCC, said.
Grove says his avalanche training courses have been full with a waitlist this year as more people are getting interested in heading out to the back country.
“You’ll learn to travel safely,” Grove said. “You need appropriate equipment. You need a partner that’s paying attention and watching you ski a slope. You need to know how to use that equipment. You need to understand all the dynamics that come into play to create avalanches.”
Shepard shared his story on the Central Oregon Avalanche Center Blog to help spread awareness about the importance of being cautious and prepared.
“Paulina is a very dangerous place,” Shepard said. “There have been a number of deaths over the years, both skiers and snowmobilers, and I would not recommend going there without a guide.”