Greg Sheardown was no stranger to heli-skiing in the Canadian mountains. Gliding down the off-the-beaten, snow-covered path had become a yearly ritual for the Lafarge Group executive who grew up near the Ontario town of Stouffville.
He put on his first pair when he was just two years old. Well, they were strapped to him then by parents who loved to take him and his older sister to Blue Mountain and Hidden Valley resorts, popular ski hills north of Toronto.
Mr. Sheardown, 45, was on his annual heli-skiing trip Friday afternoon when an avalanche suddenly roared down the Selkirk run in the Holyk Creek drainage near Revelstoke, B.C. It was the second-day of a week-long ski trip. He was with 10 other skiers and a guide from Canadian Mountain Holidays when a wall of snow buried him and partially covered three others.
They escaped uninjured, but Mr. Sheardown, married for about two decades and the father of three young boys, was pronounced dead at the local hospital. The B.C. Coroner's Service is investigating with the help of the Revelstoke RCMP. The avalanche, the RCMP said, was triggered by a skier. It was the group's sixth run of the day.
Mr. Sheardown's death has left his family heartbroken, his sister, Michelle Sheardown-Tanzos, said Sunday from her home near Caledon, Ont. His wife, Cindy, and their boys weren't with him when the avalanche struck. They were in their new home in Dubai.
This new year had been filled with so much promise for the Sheardown family.
They moved to the glittery desert city of Dubai from Cairo early last year, after an uprising began sweeping the Egyptian capital. Just last month, Mr. Sheardown had been promoted to chief executive officer for Lafarge Group's operations covering several countries in the Persian Gulf. He was supposed to take up the new position in early 2012, Serene Jweied, director of communications for Lafarge North America, noted in an e-mail.
Lafarge is a cement and aggregate giant, producing and designing building materials for projects around the world. Mr. Sheardown had began his career with the company in 1999, five years after completing an MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
He rose through the company's ranks, serving as president of the Eastern Canada region for Lafarge's aggregate and concrete product line before moving to the Middle East in the summer of 2009.
Mr. Sheardown had a thirst for travel and adventure, his sister said. He studied mining engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He met his wife in the northernmost American state. They had three sons together: Alexander is 15 years old, Ryan is 12 and the youngest, Tyler, is 10.
"He's travelled the world," Ms. Sheardown-Tanzos said over the telephone, sobbing softly. "He was very kind, an amazing father. He was always there for his kids, no matter where he was in the world. They could call him in a second."
Mr. Sheardown seemed to be enjoying his new life in the United Arab Emirates. He told his former University of Alaska roommate Fred Wallis that parts of Dubai reminded him of Las Vegas. He had been trying to persuade Mr. Wallis to come for a visit.
Mr. Sheardown was a bright student and extremely outgoing, Mr. Wallis recalled. He worked at several gold mines in Alaska while in university and laboured at an open-pit copper mine in Arizona before pursuing his MBA.
"He was kind of a character," Mr. Wallis said. "He liked to have fun, laugh. If he was in a room, you knew he was there."
Mr. Sheardown's funeral will he held in Bolton, Ont., likely later this week. His family has questions about what happened on the Selkirk run near Revelstoke. His father, Ronald, travelled to the small B.C. town from his home in Anchorage, where he is a bush pilot and moved after a divorce. His mother still lives in Ontario. He has spoken to skiers who were on the hill when the slab of snow broke loose and swallowed Mr. Sheardown.
"We don't know the [full]story yet," Ms. Sheardown-Tanzos said. "We don't want to jeopardize anything by saying too much."
With a report from Carrie Tait