With two deaths at Whitefish alone this year, I thought we ought to trade war stories on these sneaky things one more time. I've been in a few myself, and it goes from funny to serious rather quickly.
Tree wells claimed two lives at Whitefish Mountain Resort within 10 days of each other, causing skiers, snowboarders, and resort officials to assess ski habits. The deaths are two of five tree well fatalities in North America this winter and a sobering start to a winter of big snows.
A 29-year-old male snowboarder died after falling into a tree well Jan. 8 at Whitefish Mountain Resort. A 16-year-old male skier was found buried in a tree well Dec. 29 and died four days later when taken off life support. Both had been cruising the off-piste trees alone.
Tree well deaths stand in a class by themselves known as Non-Avalanche Related Snow Immersion Deaths (NARSID). In short, a skier or snowboarder falls upside down in the soft, loose snow at the base of a tree and suffocates.
Over the holidays, tree wells claimed the lives of a 29-year-old male snowboarder at China Peak Resort, Calif. and a 32-year-old female snowboarder on a snowcat trip at Retallack Lodge, B.C. A 20-year-old male snowboarder found dead in a creek on Dec. 25 at Whistler Blackcomb was trapped in an inverted position after falling in deep snow. His death is classified also as NARSID. Several other deaths were originally reported as tree well fatalities, such as a female snowboarder at Alpine Meadows, but findings later revealed other causes.