Bleating lucky - skier to the rescue of sheep

Professional skier Pete Oswald will be able to spin this yarn for years.

The Queenstown man was high in the Hector Mountains yesterday on a photo shoot for Snow Action Magazine with Southern Lakes Heliski when an exhausted sheep slid into his life.

Mr Oswald said he was waiting for photographer Dan Power to set up a shot on the last run of the day when a piece of snow hit the back of one of his ski boots, causing him to scan the slopes behind him.

About 100m away he spotted ''a little bundle of wool'' at the bottom of a groove carved by the sheep as it slid down a steep, rock-strewn slope.

He found the animal lying with its head tucked awkwardly under its body, still alive and ''wriggling''.

Drawing on his boyhood spent on a Marlborough farm, Mr Oswald raised it to its feet.

''It was trying to walk away, but it was exhausted - it would take a few steps and then lose its footing.''

He then effected what must be one of the world's few sheep rescues conducted on skis, picking up the ailing animal and carrying it several hundred metres down the mountain to a flatter, grassy spot.

After talking to his father about the incident, he reckoned the well-camouflaged animal would have escaped a muster or two and been roaming high on the range for some time.

He expected it to make a full recovery.