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C.O. snowmobiler tells avalanche survival tale


A Prineville man told his survival story to NewsChannel 21 Wednesday after he became trapped in two feet of snow during a weekend avalanche on Cowhorn Mountain near Crescent Lake.

Arron Tavernia has been snowmobiling since he was 14 years old and loves to hit the fresh powder.

But a day of outdoor adventure became an all-day rescue for them Saturdayas they set off two avalanches.

One of the riders going down the mountain triggered a small avalanchem knocking him off his snowmobile carrying him 50 feet.

Tavernia went down to help his friend, but seconds later, a second avalanche came slamming into him.

“When I was riding out I looked up and saw a wave of snow coming and hit me almost like a truck basically,” Tavernia recalled Wednesday.

Tavernia said he was buried in two feet of snow for about four minutes. Trying to catch his breath, he was hoping his friend would come to his rescue.

“Definitely, the thought of dying was definitely there,” he said. “I would say another two minutes I would have ran out of air and suffocated.”

An avalanche beacon Tavernia was wearing helped the group locate him under the snow. With shovels in their hands, the group of snowmobile riders were able to free him.

Once his friend pulled his helmet off, Tavernia felt he had a second chance at life and thanked his friends for the rescue.

It was a ride of his life that he will never forget.

Here’s the Facebook item posted Sunday by the Walker Rim Riders Snowmobile Club about what happened:

“Around 3:30 pm on Saturday February 4th we had two members of our Walker rim club caught in a very large avalanche, along with two riders that were unaffected by the slide.

“As the first snowmobiler was crossing avalanche terrain and triggered the slide approximately 1/4 mile wide and 15-18” deep. he was immediately knocked off the snowmobile and carried approximately 50 feet downhill but was still on the surface.

“Meanwhile, the second rider began to head towards him to assist, when a second avalanche came and took the second rider and sled approximately 100 to 150 feet downhill and out of sight, while a third avalanche released and completely buried both riders and sleds.

“The first rider was able to self-rescue and the group immediately began using good communication and training and were quickly able to locate the second rider using avalanche beacons/probes/shovels.

“They were able to remove his helmet and clear his airway in approximately under 2 to 3 minutes and then finished recovering him from under the snow – his estimated depth was between 1-2 feet under the surface and he received some minor trauma from being pushed through trees while carried by the avalanche debris.

“The slide happened on a wind-loaded north facing slope at 6,800 feet elevation, known as the Cowhorn bowl at an estimated 30 to 40 degrees of slope angle.

“All riders and sleds have been recovered and are now safe-please if you’re going to ride in any possible avalanche terrain please get the necessary training and gear before you go!”

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