On a season that has been very tragic for avalanche deaths in the backcountry, this one is sure to stand out. Cat-ski Mt. Bailey released this statement on Facebook yesterday:
“It is with great sadness that we must announce we have lost our legendary lead guide Rick “Oz” Oswald. Oz was involved in an avalanche incident on March 22 2016 while guiding clients on Mt Bailey. While performing avalanche control he was caught in a slide and struck a tree, sustaining fatal injuries. Oz was a friend to all who met him and an icon who had guided on Mt Bailey since 1981. He is survived by his wife Tami and his son and fellow guide, Ryan.
Thanks to all who have sent their love and support during these very tough times.”
As someone who grew up skiing in Oregon, I know what a well-respected skier and guide Oz was. It seems that everyone in Central Oregon knew who he was.
It is worth noting that NRToday (the local newspaper for Roseburg, OR) wrote an article about Cat-ski Mt. Bailey 2-days before the incident saying this:
“But despite the risks, Cat Ski Mount Bailey has a perfect safety record, and I felt comfortable with the professional guides leading the way and following from behind as we made our way down the mountain.”
While it may be too soon to start speculating, you can’t help but wonder, is this a sign that overconfidence got the better of them?
Nothing more has been said about the future of operations at Mt. Bailey, nor more specifics on what exactly went down during those final moments. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the legendary Mt. Bailey guide who had been guiding at Mt. Bailey since 1981.
Mt. Bailey is Oregon’s only full snow-cat ski operation and is the longest backcountry snow-cat ski operation in the U.S.
While this is a tragic event, hopefully this will be a good reminder to backcountry skiers and backcountry professionals everywhere that truly anyone can be taken out by the backcountry at any time.