- Location: Paulina Peak, south of Bend
- State: Oregon
- Date: 2023/03/15
- Summary Description: 1 backcountry snowboarder killed
- Primary Activity: Backcountry Tourer
- Primary Travel Mode: Snowboard
- Location Setting: Backcountry
- Caught: 1
- Partially Buried, Non-Critical: 0
- Partially Buried, Critical: 1
- Fully Buried: 0
- Injured: 0
- Killed: 1
- Type: HS
- Trigger: AR - Snowboarder
- Trigger (subcode): --
- Size - Relative to Path: R2
- Size - Destructive Force: D2
- Sliding Surface: O - Within Old Snow
- Slope Aspect: E
- Site Elevation: 7450 ft
- Slope Angle: 45 °
- Slope Characteristic: Sparse Trees
There is no Avalanche forecast issued for Paulina Peak. The peak is located 25 miles Southeast of the Cascade Zone for which a forecast is issued by the Central OR Avalanche Center. Historically the weather and snowpack have been very different from the Cascades and at this time the Central Oregon Avalanche Center does not currently maintain snowpack info for Paulina Peak.
The 2022/2023 winter season has been characterized by continuous and above average snowfall. Mountain temperatures have anecdotally remained cooler than we are used to. While Paulina Peak often receives the same storm systems that we see in the Cascades, it’s position to the East generally provides for lower snowfall totals, colder temperatures, and more clear skies.
On March 9 and 10 the region received several feet of snow. After more stable weather or Saturday the 11, another more minor storm delivered snowfall to the region accompanied by slightly warmer temperatures (high temperatures at Paulina peak reached the upper 20’s F). Wednesday March 15 was partly cloudy with no precipitation.
The avalanche was a persistent slab which failed on a layer of rounding facets that was buried 91 cm down (see accompanying hardness profile). On our investigation on March 18 this layer was observable in the vicinity via pole probing and compression tests on the crown showed sudden planer results. The date or weather events associated with this faceted layer are uncertain due to lack of regional snowpack records.
The three riders had varying levels of familiarity and experience riding at Paulina Peak. Rider 2 had been skiing in this zone for the past 24 seasons and 10 out of the previous 14 days. He had ridden very close to the line of the accident just 4 days before the accident.
On the day of the accident the group rode two East facing runs before starting down the line that avalanched. They observed no signs of instability. The ski run where the accident occurred is known by some as "3Gs". The group began riding "3Gs" through steep trees to skier's left of the center. After the initial pitch they scoped possible riding beyond a faint ridge to skiers left. After deciding not to ride in this steeper terrain they chose to move back to "3Gs". The avalanche was triggered along the faint ridge skiers left of the center of the run. All of the riders rode very close to the poorly defined start zone. Riders 2 and 3 were reportedly posted up, down and skier's right when the avalanche occurred. Rider 1 triggered the Persistent Slab avalanche in steep (45 degree) unsupported East facing terrain. He was carried over small cliffs and through sparse small trees before coming to rest in a very tight line of trees.
Riders 2 and 3 reportedly observed the avalanche from a safe location below and skier’s right of the slide. They were easily able to locate rider 1 (the victim) as he was not completely buried. The victim was located in a stand of very tight trees. Reportedly the victim was unconscious and it is unclear whether a pulse was detected. Riders 2 and 3 moved the victim clear of the tight trees, activated emergency resources via InReach at 12:48 and initiated CPR.
Three members of Deschutes County Search and Rescue were transported via Airlink to the vicinity of the accident. They were dropped approximately one mile from the scene and arrived on scene at approximately 1600 h. After detecting a faint pulse, these rescuers continued CPR and other medical care. Once standard life saving measures were exhausted, CPR was discontinued and the victim was transported to the snow park via snow mobile.