Lead Guide of Oregon’s Cat-Ski Mt. Bailey Killed in Avalanche

Jack Lafeman | | AvalancheAvalanche
Rick "Oz" Oswald. Lead guide of Mt. Bailey. Photo: Cat-ski Mt. Bailey
Rick “Oz” Oswald. Lead guide of Mt. Bailey. Photo: Cat-ski Mt. Bailey

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?

Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake from Mt. Theilsen. Photo: Jack Lafeman
Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake from Mt. Theilsen. Photo: Jack Lafeman

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.

R.I.P.

Skiing some powder on Mt. Bailey during a recent skinning trip we did a few weeks back.
Skiing some powder on Mt. Bailey during a recent skinning trip we did a few weeks back.

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11 thoughts on “Lead Guide of Oregon’s Cat-Ski Mt. Bailey Killed in Avalanche

  1. I hope there will be a public funeral. A whole bunch of folks will want to pay respect. Oz was the greatest.

  2. Very sad news. I skiied with Oz a number of times including a really great visit this Feb. A great guide and ski companion. He brought a lot to cat skiing. RIP Oz.

  3. Ozz is Great ! He never took short cuts or under valued saftey with snow conditions and never let anyone else.we are missing him!

  4. Holy crap is this a disrespectful sentence:
    “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?”

    Especially when the article concludes with:
    “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.”

    1. I caught those sentences as well and had the same thought. Skied with Oz and the group at Bailey and always left with the belief that they were over the top safe. I know I will come back time and time again accepting the inherent risk, but knowing I am as safe as can be with the Bailey guides. RIP Oz

  5. My husband and his friend went skiing on Mt Bailey many years ago. Oz was there with another guide. The guide and our friend got caught in an avalanche. My husband and others were ahead of the Avalanche. My friend had a lower leg fracture and couldn’t put weight on it. Oz carried him out on his back. The other guide had an open fracture of his lower led. They are extremely lucky to be alive. My husband and his friend will never forget that day and Oz’s heroic effort.

  6. Just read this and wanted to express my condolences to all of Mr. Oswald’s family and friends. He was the lead guide for our group in 2010. He and the other guides were very strict about safety and I have practiced what I learned that day since.

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