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Lost skier Ed Perello rescued after four days stranded on Whitewater ski hill

12/17/2014 05:33 EST | Updated 02/16/2015 05:59 EST
An ill-prepared skier who was stranded on a ski hill near Nelson, B.C. for four days has finally been rescued — and left contemplating his own mortality.

Ed Perello, 47, is a regular skier at the Whitewater ski resort. When the hill is closed for the season, he puts skins on his skis to climb up, then skis down.

"It's just a great way to start my day. I get a lot of exercise, sit up top, eat an apple, drink some water, enjoy the beauty, go 'Wow.' It's right in my backyard. That's my happy place up there," he told Daybreak South's Bob Keating.

But last Monday, Perello, who is from Ymir in B.C.'s West Kootenay region, took a wrong turn while on his way down and got lost.

"It took me a long time to really get my head around what I had done. I thought, 'Okay, I'm going to hit the lodge here' and I thought, 'Wow, I must have really gone sideways. I guess I'll pop out down by the Glory Chair.'

"Then three quarters of the day is over and I'm covering ground now because I know I'm missing my lunch. My daily routing is a little messed up, I'm being careful."

'Nobody's going to call'

It usually takes Perello about an hour and 15 minutes to hike up the mountain, and about 15 minutes to ski down. He said he was ill-prepared to stay longer.

"I had a small LED flashlight which I was very grateful that I had that. I had a lighter, which probably saved my life, and a handful of almonds and raisins and a very rotten apple that I ended up consuming anyway."

There is no cell phone reception at Whitewater, so Perello had little choice but to keep moving and hope he found his way out. As night fell on his first day on the mountain, he built a fire.

"In the morning I thought, this is a decision that was kind of a make-or-break for me. If I stayed by the fire, I could probably keep it going and [someone] might be able to see it."

When he woke, he had to decide whether to stay put near the fire, or keep moving.

"I also knew I didn't tell anybody what I was doing, and I'm a big boy, nobody's going to call, nobody even knew I was gone." 

Perello kept moving on his skis, and said the movement kept him warm and focused. But by the time night fell on the second day, he said his ego was gone.

"At first, I was calling, 'Hello' and it didn't take long until that 'Hello' was changed to 'Help' and that 'Help' sounded a little more sincere every time."

On Tuesday night, it was pouring rain, and Perello took cover under a large log.

"My body really started shaking and that worried me a lot, because I knew that was the beginnings of hypothermia."

'They saved my life'

Perello spent a third night outside. But on the fourth day, he heard a Nelson Search and Rescue helicopter, and got out into the open.

To Perello's relief, three members of the search and rescue crew then came in on skis.

"I remember hearing 'Hey-o, hey-o' and I called back, 'Hey-o, hey-o' and the next thing you know, they're on the other side of the creek.

"They saved my life. There's no way I wasn't coming out on my own. That just wasn't happening. I was waiting to be rescued."

Perello said he already knew life was precious, but the four-day ordeal served as a reminder. He admitted he was ill-prepared and next time he should probably think more about safety.

"I like playing outside. I should probably bring a friend with me a lot of these places that I go."

The four days outside also came with a surprising revelation about his own mortality.

"I know I'm not afraid to die — that I know — which surprised the hell out of me."

To hear more about Ed Perello's four days in the wilderness, click the audio labelled: Lost skier Ed Perello.

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