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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › Found a girl in a tree well front side at Vail yesterday
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Found a girl in a tree well front side at Vail yesterday

post #1 of 80
Thread Starter 

I was on the front side skiers right under the Sourdough lift in a small patch of trees yesterday around 1pm.  I was skiing by myself just tiring to find some of the last powder stashes.  I was nearing the end of the trees and saw out of the corner of my eye a pair of skis sticking out.  I hiked back to the tree and tried to free the skier with no luck, so I started digging and could not believe how buried she was.  By the time I cleared her airway she was blue and gasping.  All i could do was keep the snow off her.  She was alert and communicative, so I called ski patrol for help, they got there relatively quick.  They were as astonished as I was at the depth of this well.  The skier was completely buried to her boots.  They were able to dig a side hole and free her in about 15mins. 

 

She was a 17yr old girl who was skiing with her brother (who was in front and lost sight of her).  He waited at bottom of trees and hiked back up, but it was not an easy hike back to her (10-15mins).   By the time her arrived I was in the hole and had called SP.  

 

Ski patrol commented how the snow conditions at Vail are ripe for this type of accident, and that she was very lucky.  It was a really scary situation that ended happily.

post #2 of 80

YOW!  Good work!  Thank you from the whole ski community. 

 

From your description, I think about how easy it would have been to ski right by and not know. 

post #3 of 80
Wow. Lucky you happened upon her. Scary stuff.
post #4 of 80

Well done! Some very happy parents owe you a beer or three. 

post #5 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

Well done! Some very happy parents owe you a beer or three. 

 

More like a fifth of Patron Silver.

post #6 of 80

Good on you. Nice work!

post #7 of 80

What happened after they freed her...did they take her down?  Let her ski off?

post #8 of 80

A sobering reminder for all of us.  Thank God you saved the girl.

 

  I am making my first visit to Vail in April and this is something I have thought about.  Can you rent rescue beacons?
 

post #9 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Abox View Post

What happened after they freed her...

She clobbered her brother!

post #10 of 80

1st off- great job

 

another reason to ski with beacons, probes an shovels in that kind of terrain.  Yes, with a beacon you could be located in a well.  

post #11 of 80
Thread Starter 

Yes, she skiied down with her brother. 

post #12 of 80

Most important is/are good partners who are keeping an eye out for each other. The other is skiers like finnicky paying attention to the appearance of ski gear near a tree. This is HUGE. What if the girl and her brother had beacons and were the only ones in the area or if other's like finnicky weren't paying attention? Beacons live on 'transmit' mode. No one is skiing in 'receive' mode until a problem is suspected. The brother was 10-15min hike down the hill. Too slow and too far away. For bad tree well conditions, beacons help if there are a critical mass of others on the mountain with them and they are paying attention. The tool that hasn't been mentioned is a good shovel and 'how' to dig someone out from a tree well.  I don't want to revisit this argument, but locally, tree wells are a big issue. It's very common for people to carry a beacon,shovel, and probe during snow events. I'd say most are pretty aware  of stopping to check if they see a piece of gear or clothing next to a tree.

post #13 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post

1st off- great job

 

another reason to ski with beacons, probes an shovels in that kind of terrain.  Yes, with a beacon you could be located in a well.  

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

Most important is/are good partners who are keeping an eye out for each other. The other is skiers like finnicky paying attention to the appearance of ski gear near a tree. This is HUGE. What if the girl and her brother had beacons and were the only ones in the area or if other's like finnicky weren't paying attention? Beacons live on 'transmit' mode. No one is skiing in 'receive' mode until a problem is suspected. The brother was 10-15 hike down the hill. Too slow and too far away. For bad tree well conditions, beacons help if there are a critical mass of others on the mountain with them and they know something is wrong. The tool that hasn't been mentioned is a good shovel and 'how' to dig someone out from a tree well.  I don't want to revisit this argument, but locally, tree wells are a big issue. It's very common for people to carry a beacon,shovel, and probe during snow events. I'd say most are pretty aware stopping to check if they see a piece of gear or clothing next to a tree.

 

 

yeah, again, take a damn AVI-1 course already! you don't have to ski in avi terrain all the time to get a ton of useful information and learn skills like how to shovel someone out and how to use a probe. A beacon just saves your ass; not your partners.  Too many people think all they need is a beacon.  Think of the beacon, shovel and probe as one piece of equipment.  Each is integral to the other. 

post #14 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post

1st off- great job

 

another reason to ski with beacons, probes an shovels in that kind of terrain.  Yes, with a beacon you could be located in a well.  

Thing to understand about beacons is the timing issue in the case of tree wells. Most people who fall into tree wells are still visible. If you DO practice the buddy system in trees, you should be able to see them, anyway, the majority of the time. If you DON'T practice the buddy system, then either someone will randomly see them and assist them, beacon or not, or they will have a fair chance of being dead by the time patrol finds them with a beacon search. That doesn't mean that a beacon can't help, and beacons have helped locate people in tree wells. But, the key is the buddy system.  Avalungs arguably offer more direct help in terms of tree wells.

post #15 of 80

Wow, that is awesome. Well done! So glad that we didn't see national headlines about this (had you not been there), and that the girl is alive to ski another day.

post #16 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post

 

 

 

yeah, again, take a damn AVI-1 course already! you don't have to ski in avi terrain all the time to get a ton of useful information and learn skills like how to shovel someone out and how to use a probe. A beacon just saves your ass; not your partners.  Too many people think all they need is a beacon.  Think of the beacon, shovel and probe as one piece of equipment.  Each is integral to the other. 

An avy 1 is not real useful to staying safe inbounds, frankly.  Buddy system in trees is, for lots of reasons that extend beyond snow issues and include collisions, etc.  People don't need to feel that they should take a bc-oriented avy class to be safe users of inbounds terrain.

post #17 of 80

not arguing here but as just finishing my Avi-1 I learned a ton of stuff applicable to inbounds sidecountry skiing. 

post #18 of 80

Wow! That is really amazing, and thankfully you were there and knew what to do. Sourdough???? That is a seriously freaky accident, I don't think anyone in the history of the world has ever carried a beacon and shovel b/c they were going to ski the Sourdough lift... (I know, I know, tree wells can happen anywhere ... )

post #19 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post

not arguing here but as just finishing my Avi-1 I learned a ton of stuff applicable to inbounds sidecountry skiing. 

Sourdough is a lift right in the middle of Vail that serves exclusively green terrain (mostly it is used as a quick way to get up to Two Elk Lodge without skating out of the back bowls). There are some fun trees you can duck in and out of, but this is not beacon territory. 

post #20 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post

not arguing here but as just finishing my Avi-1 I learned a ton of stuff applicable to inbounds sidecountry skiing. 

Not looking for an argument, either.  Sidecountry ain't inbounds, so there are very different issues between inbounds and sidecountry. 

 

Yes, the ability to perform a beacon search CAN help inbounds, but even that isn't something you need a formal avy class for.  I doubt you are doing much stability assessment on your own inbounds, and sidecountry is again different even from backcountry because of the way it's accessed in terms of making stability assessments.  Basically I don't see why people should be made to feel that they should invest all the time and money in an avy-1 to feel safe and responsible inbounds -- because the same small portions of that skill set that they can use inbounds can be gotten much more cost-effectively through other means in terms of time and money.

post #21 of 80
http://www.deepsnowsafety.org/index.php/. My son ended up in one a couple of years ago, and that incident led me to this site: http://www.deepsnowsafety.org/index.php/ .
post #22 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post

  Basically I don't see why people should be made to feel that they should invest all the time and money in an avy-1 to feel safe and responsible inbounds -- because the same small portions of that skill set that they can use inbounds can be gotten much more cost-effectively through other means in terms of time and money.

 

I think the larger question is simple 'awareness'. This is really the focus of an avy 1 class. If you've been someplace long enough, you're probably pretty well aware of the local hazards without plunking $$$ down for a proper course. But what's common experience or sense to some is an alternate reality to others, particularly if their local hill/geography doesn't have dangers associated with larger, more rollicking mountains. 

post #23 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

I think the larger question is simple 'awareness'. This is really the focus of an avy 1 class. If you've been someplace long enough, you're probably pretty well aware of the local hazards without plunking $$$ down for a proper course. But what's common experience or sense to some is an alternate reality to others, particularly if their local hill/geography doesn't have dangers associated with larger, more rollicking mountains. 

I agree. Paradoxically, anyone passing an avy class is more likely to die since they now feel comfortable skiing away from the resorts. Skiers need to know more about overall dangers of skiing in bounds or on the side and that includes knowledge about tree wells. The sad part is that the resorts don't push this type of safety even though their own ski patrols will gladly speak to groups (like scouts or school groups) about these dangers for free. This is why I always am a sucker for ski patrol t-shirts at the resorts I visit. I don't care if the money goes to beer or to buy another dog. The ski patrols are always helpful and do save lives.
post #24 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

 

I think the larger question is simple 'awareness'. This is really the focus of an avy 1 class. If you've been someplace long enough, you're probably pretty well aware of the local hazards without plunking $$$ down for a proper course. But what's common experience or sense to some is an alternate reality to others, particularly if their local hill/geography doesn't have dangers associated with larger, more rollicking mountains. 

The real focus of an avy 1 is on things like how avalanches form and release, types of avalanches, an intro to avy terrain, backcountry (or sidecountry) decision making, human/social factors, and avalanche rescue.   You log class time, with slides and lectures, and field time, including going over things like route selection.  It is in no way focused on just general awareness of mountain hazards that inbounds users may confront.

 

It will not hurt someone to cover all of this, obviously, but is again not needed for inbounds users.  Someone  who is NOT a local -- who in your words is not used to "rollicking" mountains --  who does not intend to spend time anywhere other than inbounds should in particular not feel that an avy 1 is in any way needed. 

post #25 of 80
Thread Starter 

Qudos to Vail Ski Patrol as they did and excellent job getting to us quickly.

post #26 of 80

I sure didn't think Vail had nearly enough of a base to get somebody stuck in a tree well. Was there a lot of wind loading in the area?

 

I noticed Wolf Creek has some definite tree well action setting during this storm. Be careful out there. 

post #27 of 80
Thread Starter 

Absolutely was wind loaded/drifted this small section of tree is between two groomers.  The snow was REALLY deep in this section of trees.

post #28 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post

The real focus of an avy 1 is on things like how avalanches form and release, types of avalanches, an intro to avy terrain, backcountry (or sidecountry) decision making, human/social factors, and avalanche rescue.   You log class time, with slides and lectures, and field time, including going over things like route selection.  It is in no way focused on just general awareness of mountain hazards that inbounds users may confront.

 

It will not hurt someone to cover all of this, obviously, but is again not needed for inbounds users.  Someone  who is NOT a local -- who in your words is not used to "rollicking" mountains --  who does not intend to spend time anywhere other than inbounds should in particular not feel that an avy 1 is in any way needed. 

 

I used the idea of 'awareness' specifically because very few people taking avy 1 will have enough previous experience to know how to evaluate, route find, etc... The course makes you 'aware' of the 'how, what, when, and where, etc...' of all the issues you've mentioned and builds a foundation for learning more about evaluation, etc... What's lacking is immediate experience. That comes with time and travel. This general 'awareness' can be brought to inbounds skiing. 

 

My apologies to others for not being specific enough and the resultant confusion. Kook, thanks yet again for allowing me to be your foil. I bow in humble deference. Do note though that I agree with you that avy 1 isn't a prerequisite for skiing inbounds terrain. Hell, without experience and use, it isn't a prerequisite for anything.

post #29 of 80

Oh, and Kook, while you're at it, as there's potential for more confusion, would you explain the more correct occasion to use 'wind loading'? Thanks! 

post #30 of 80
And the buddy who is skiing too far ahead is as good as useless. "Meet you at the bottom" doesn't cut it.
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