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2012 - "Watch out for Tree Wells" Reminder

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Just a reminder to be careful tree skiing or just skiing near trees even on small traveled paths.  I met my brother at Whistler for the Thanksgiving long weekend and told him about tree wells in the morning and their dangers.  That afternoon he was skiing around with camera when he found out first hand what a small tree well was like.  I am still surprised I never mentioned tree wells to him before this or he'd  never heard about them.  Below is a video of him falling in a very small well on Whistler's opening day while wearing his go pro.  I tried to edit it to the 9:30 minutes in to 14 minutes in, but it doesn't seem to be working so slide it to 9:50 in and watch till he tumbles a minute or so later.  The edits will eventually take and start at the correct time... I hope.


Move slider to 9:50 to start near tree well.


 Like me, he hadn't heard of them.  He lives in Victoria and skis pretty regular at Whistler Blackcomb and at Mount Washington on the Island, along with many other places with me and we often go off trail but I had never heard of tree wells until I read about them here on Epic Ski 3 seasons ago, 3 weeks before flying upside down into one on the Utah gathering.  I was very surprised when I read about them and the deaths that happen in them each year that I had never thought/heard (that I listened to) or been in one when I considered I had loved tree skiing for some time, heli skied and in general skied a lot, but I was sure glad as I was flying into one at snow bird that I had read an article here on Epic and new to grab branches. The well I landed in at Utah was bottomless...( i couldn't feel the bottom when i put my pole in to test) they had 30 feet of snow that year and I was able to flip my self out with the branches and land back on the run with great effort.  Had I not read the article I wouldn't have thought to grab branches and quite possibly would have been laughing at my fall until I was drowning.


Just wanted to post so that eastern skiers heading west have a heads up on what can happen and don't land in one upside down and drown unknowingly.  Small ones like this are also quite dangerous to children.  You can see he is chest deep in that well he is 5'10', a child will be over their head.   Remember to ski with a friend when you're at a big mountain, keep them in sight always and if you go down for help it will be too late to save the person in the well.  They must be dug out right away, so give trees a wide berth or be prepared with a pack, shovel, etc, especially when skiing in fresh powder.


post #2 of 13

Do you have a link for a tree well article on Epic? 

post #3 of 13

We had two deaths last year here with tree wells.  I have a link about tree wells in my Local's Guide.  

post #4 of 13

So far this year we are not having trouble with tree wellsbiggrin.gif  I do not mean to make light of tree wells - they can be a real problem but we would just like to cover the dirt at this point.

post #5 of 13

There's several older threads with tree well story links under search .... but this article gives some info on them and getting out of them.




I would also recommend a read through some of the older threads if you spend time in the trees as there is many first hand experiences on being in them and getting out of them.  Many places this year are lacking snow but many will or can receive the big dump that will make them a problem any time.  This just a reminder thread to put in your pocket and remember they're out there.

Originally Posted by alexzn View Post

Do you have a link for a tree well article on Epic? 


post #6 of 13

Oh, I know that website!  Thanks for the info. 

post #7 of 13

we carry whistles too, while not helping one head down, i've told my kids it's useful if lost, needing help, etc.   worn on their lanyard with their pass

post #8 of 13

Pete, just be aware that trees full of snow absorb a LOT of sound.  We've all got those horrid blasting whistles where I ski and used them one day trying to find a buddy.  I was amazed how deadened the sound was.  People need to stay close to each other and not think the whistle will help much if there is no one fairly close in the trees.  

post #9 of 13

As someone coming from Japan where trees lose all their foliage and therefore cannot shelter and "wells" I have to admit that the idea of them scares me to death. See them everywhere here in Revelstoke.

post #10 of 13

Given the general snow conditions around most of the US, I think people are more likely to deal with this kind of well.

post #11 of 13

Not to take anything away from your video, but it really doesn't show how stuck you can become after hitting a tree well. The friend that got caught in this tree well was so stuck that it took 4 of us 10 minutes to get him out. He was skiing near a tree which appeared to be 2 to 3 feet tall, but was actually more like 7 feet tall. When he got close to it, he got sucked into the well and there was no way that he would be able to get himself out. The pic is about 5 minutes of digging him out. When we got to him, his skis were on and his hands pinned behind his head with snow over his head. Skiing by himself, I'm sure he would have died.



post #12 of 13



no disagreement with sound and such, only noted them as handy to find one another if split and far better than simply yelling.  however cell phones have gotten better on the mountains I've skied.  they once were horrid for any signal anywhere if found.   yes, my fear on wells is the head first or pinned arms ... really, any well in any manner, you get off nearly any path w/o skis and you can sink even way from a well.  you may as well swim it and roll ...

post #13 of 13

When I was about 20 I was skiing alone in deep powder in the trees and slipped into a tree well head first. It was a remote area and nobody was around. I managed to dig myself out (obviously), but it took close to 45 minutes of struggling and for a long time I was pretty sure I was going to die there. I was really lucky. I would like to say that taught me to respect how dangerous those things can be, but being young and foolish I kept right on doing the same things. But seriously, tree wells are no joke. Use the buddy system.

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