or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › Our Annual Tree Well Thread
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Our Annual Tree Well Thread

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

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.

 

Resorts across the West, such as Lost Trail, Mont., have deep snow. Use caution in the trees. Resorts across the West, such as Lost Trail, Mont., have deep snow. Use caution in the trees.

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. 

 

 

http://www.onthesnow.com/news/a/14998/north-american-tree-well-fatalities-are-sober-start-to-winter 

post #2 of 7

In any deep snow conditions, if you don't feel really solid, good, happy, strong, well rested, alert, healthy, and balanced, don't go out in close trees, steep creek gulleys, sluffy steeps, terrain traps. Your chances of skiing well in very deep snow improve with your physical mental well being. And still, stuff happens to everyone.

 

when I'm stuck deep, I start by trying not to panic (then my mouth is not full of snow and I'm probably breathing so already have a survival possibility and can remain calm) and get myself organized for extraction. I dig around myself a little. I use a pole to try to find terra firma. try to make a packed snow platform part way up the snow pack right next to myself. take skis off usually, but not always. step by step. work the snow. little bits of progress to the top of the snow. try not to pant and become exhausted. weakness is one of the enemies, conserve strength and breath, you can become helpless and weak in a couple minutes if you thrash. this all assuming you can breath.

post #3 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post

In any deep snow conditions, if you don't feel really solid, good, happy, strong, well rested, alert, healthy, and balanced, don't go out in close trees, steep creek gulleys, sluffy steeps, terrain traps. Your chances of skiing well in very deep snow improve with your physical mental well being. And still, stuff happens to everyone.



And don't, don't, DON'T go out alone.

post #4 of 7

could someone explain the buddy system as it works where tree wells are the main hazzard? both people can't cover each other. one may be down the hill and unable to get back to his partner. I guess you set up for max safety and hope the unforseen doesn't occur. strongest skier goes last, waiting and watching. front skier must go where planned by the group, and not ski out of sight.  two strong skiers alternate skiing and watching from a point you can swoop down and assist. both skiers can not be in motion at once I think. I'm not so strong on this. what have I forgotten?

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

The buddy system is not a bad idea, but it is tough to make it work.  Some of our trees are in a set of small ridges and gulleys, and it is really hard to stay together at all.  If the skiers are of similar ability it helps, but someone can vanish in a flash, and in the kind of snow that treewells eat you, going back up can be just about impossible.  We carried whistles patrolling, and they would be good to have all the time.  We hoot and yodel a lot, and have a meet up spot planned for if we get separated. 

 

Strongest skier last is a good idea, but stupidest skier first is maybe better.  My wife has a few stories about following my tracks and having them lead to an inverted set of legs kicking in the air.  It does help to have someone release the bingings.

post #6 of 7

I think the two skiers can alternate, one skiing past the stationary skier, then the other taking her/his turn doing the same.  But, whoever is on the way down needs to stop below the stopped skier at a distance easy enough to hike back up in a timely manner.  Just 15 feet is a hell of a distance in some snow.

post #7 of 7

Skiing is risky in and of itself.  But, there are more and less risky behaviors within the sport.  Skiing with a buddy and whistles is within my tolerance for the trees.  If I get stuck hopefully I can get to my whistle and hopefully they will hear it..and hopefully help will arrive before I perish.  Otherwise, when your number is up it is up.  Skiing 15 feet at a time isn't acceptable utility return for the reduced risk IMHO. 

 

Funny thing is that last year one day I saw ice blocks forming on overhead snow guns that had to be at least twenty pounds.  Getting hit with one of those as it falls from 25 feet above would likely be fatal too.  But, I still skied under the guns because that is where the best snow was.  Yes, they probably should have turned them off or adjusted them to prevent that hazard.   Be careful and don't be stupid.. Skiing trees alone and without a whistle is probably stupid, but most of us have done it and will do it again.  Now doing it OB alone is REALLY stupid!

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Skiing Discussion
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › Our Annual Tree Well Thread