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Tree well story

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Just read this today on Topix and find it a bit unbelievable.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...yndication=rss

...there's Laurie Macartney's story.

While skiing just off a cat track at Crystal Mountain last winter, Macartney lost a ski and fell headfirst into a tree well, dragging snow in with her.

Instantly, she recalled, she knew she was stuck, her body encased. She could move her head, in a helmet, only a quarter inch; her hands, maybe two inches.

She couldn't move her back or chest.

There was no snow on her face, and she had a small pocket of air. But as an emergency medical technician and 37-year volunteer ski patroller, she knew she was running out of air.

Her husband, John, also a veteran ski patroller, figured Laurie had skied ahead. But as he continued down the hill, he caught sight of a wiggling ski. Unaware that the buried skier was his wife, he began to pull on her legs.

"She was really stuck in there," John recalled. "The snow had really packed in around her."

John yelled for help to a skier below, but Laurie Macartney was unconscious by the time the two dug her out.

John, stunned to realize the skier was his wife, began rescue breathing. And Laurie lived to tell the tale.

For the Macartneys, the lesson is that skiing partners should always stay in contact. Laurie had passed out after only about eight minutes, even though her airway was clear.

"Once somebody goes into a tree well, somebody's going to have to get to them pretty fast," John Macartney said.

For Wang, the volunteer snowboard patroller at Crystal, his time in the simulated tree well was "eye-opening." Only a couple years ago, "nobody really paid much attention" to such dangers, he said.

"Hopefully, with Paul's efforts and the efforts up at Mount Baker, more people will be aware of this," he said. "Seems like the best defense against it is to not get yourself in that situation."
post #2 of 19
So I guess skiing alone using tree-wells as banked corners at the bottom of steeps is a pretty JONG thing to do, eh?
post #3 of 19
I was gonna post this one. Seriously, look at last year's treewell discussions here and at TGR. They are a HUGE safety issue here in the PNW. And part of why a growing number of people out here (myself included) feel it prudent on many days to carry beacons/packs and ski in well defined teams when skiing inbounds off piste...
post #4 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by spindrift View Post
I was gonna post this one. Seriously, look at last year's treewell discussions here and at TGR. They are a HUGE safety issue here in the PNW. And part of why a growing number of people out here (myself included) feel it prudent on many days to carry beacons/packs and ski in well defined teams when skiing inbounds off piste...
Certainly an argument for an avy lung in-bounds. It might be a bit tough to grasp if you've never been in those conditions, but as an example, Crystal Mt. South Backcountry re-opened Friday with 70" new of snow since last open. This isn't Utah champaigne pow, but snow with some serious character that can get you stuck in a big hurry.
post #5 of 19
It may sound unbelievable, but it's not. I've gotten stuck under similar circumstances and know 1st hand how hard it is to get out. You have to experience it to appreciate the seriousness of the hazard.

It's one of the main reason why I wont venture into the trees alone unless I'm clearly visible.
post #6 of 19
My personal tree well story was posted last year.
I now own a a avalung in a Covert backpack, and I hope never to use it.
My experience was of snow immediately plugging my airway and not knowing if I could clear it. We don't have those snow conditions this year, but I always think this message is worth repeating.
post #7 of 19
Last season four people in Washington State were victims of NARSID (non-avalanche related snow immersion death). If I remember right, these were all at resorts, not back-country skiers. As a result of this terrible statistic Mt Baker produced some excellent information to help in the awareness to this risk. Their great website with good info on this is:

http://www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com/

This is a subject where awareness can help in your chance of survival.
post #8 of 19
The link above is in print form and available from the Crystal Mt. ski patrol and likely also the Mt. Baker patrol who were among the coauthors.


Ken
post #9 of 19
I was skiing in Maryland this week (it won't take a genius to guess which resort) and will be skiing at Liberty this weekend. I never see tree wells in my eastern skiing, and really appreciate the reminder that skiing out west is a different sport in many ways, becasue I will be skiing out west later this season. Thanks for posting this thread.
post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by FOG View Post
I never see tree wells in my eastern skiing,
You won't see them in the west either. They're not visible for the most part. Learn to recognize where they will form and then stay away.
post #11 of 19
I've seen special filter things worn around the chest attached to a tube/mouthpeice. Its designed for people skiing around avalanche areas/helps filter out carbon dioxide and gets more oxygen from the surrounding snow somehow. These things could be useful for tree wells also wouldnt they?
post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildfrogman View Post
I've seen special filter things worn around the chest attached to a tube/mouthpeice. Its designed for people skiing around avalanche areas/helps filter out carbon dioxide and gets more oxygen from the surrounding snow somehow. These things could be useful for tree wells also wouldnt they?
Avalung. It actually does not filter, but makes sure you are not exhaling to where you are inhaling from. Sentiment seems to be building that treewell utility could be high.

From Black Diamond - and they've incorporated it into a couple of packs this year too...
http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com...y_overview.php
post #13 of 19

avalung

this case describes being upside down in a tree well , able to move her arms 2 inches. how do you get to the avalung?
post #14 of 19
you can see them if you look. It's kind of a pit around the tree - looks easy to fall in and get trapped. For some reason the snow doesn't fill in sometimes around the tree itself.

I've seen them when skiing trees out west - particularly at Solitude, also some Tahoe resorts.
post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by ct55 View Post
you can see them if you look. It's kind of a pit around the tree - looks easy to fall in and get trapped. For some reason the snow doesn't fill in sometimes around the tree itself.

I've seen them when skiing trees out west - particularly at Solitude, also some Tahoe resorts.
Well, you're right. But there are lots of invisible ones too, where smaller trees have created an air space under their branches, yet the snow is deep enough to pile up on the outside of the tree making that space invisible.
post #16 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post
Well, you're right. But there are lots of invisible ones too, where smaller trees have created an air space under their branches, yet the snow is deep enough to pile up on the outside of the tree making that space invisible.
Tree-wells have become critical at Mt. Baker this year. Baker has now accumulated 500 inches of snow, and is on pace to meet or beat their world record snowfall of over 1100 inches in '98/'99. Everything is skiable, which is both good and bad.

Off-piste skiing in treed terrain (mostly what we have up here), with massive snow-pack, can be trouble.

I straddled a tree-well last week in Deer Valley (yes, they have off-piste there too). Although the tree and well were small, I knew what I had found, and it was frightening. I called to my bud to stay put, as I climbed the tree branches to escape.

For someone with claustrophobia, (moi) a tree-well is NOT the way to go.
post #17 of 19
holy cow - I cannot imagine that. 1000 inches - that's like 80 feet?! Well if you have a 10+ foot base I can understand how trees would be buried.
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by ct55 View Post
holy cow - I cannot imagine that. 1000 inches - that's like 80 feet?! Well if you have a 10+ foot base I can understand how trees would be buried.
Virtually all the Seattle area slopes are currently between about 100 inch and 150+ inch bases. If the season keeps on track, local hills could end up with much more than that. So yeah - the tree picture is sort of different than in much of the US. It really is a big safety issue...
post #19 of 19
Treewells have two very different appearances. During and immediately following fresh snow, low density snow crystals fill the area around a tree, suspended by the branches. It can even appear deeper than the surrounding snow as the branches and trunk support the snow and slough it to the outside of the drip line. This is extremely hazardous, invisible and bottomless. Following the storm, consolidation begins. In spring tree wells are clearly visible as deep depressions around the tree, but they are nearly invisible immediately following deep snow.
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