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Steamboat Tree Wells - accidents

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Just back from Steamboat. There is good snow up there right now. A quick heads-up:
http://www.steamboatpilot.com/news/2...boat_ski_area/
post #2 of 17
Something to think about while skiing the Western Resorts. Never ski in the trees or backcountry alone. I've been upside down in a treewell at Steamboat. If it wasn't for my friends behind me, I'd still be there. Of course, they stood there and laughed at me for a while before they got me out.
post #3 of 17
yeah I posted one just a few minutes ago on this - a guy from my hometown died in one of the accidents. Going out on a trip in a day or two - hammers home how deadly this stuff can be.
post #4 of 17
I don't think its any coincidence that both of these skiers were from the northeast. Before I started reading this board a couple of years ago I had never heard of a treewell, never mind how dangerous that are. To think that both of the guys were on intermediate trails just blows my mind. I wouldn't be surprised if his friend was not aware how serious this issue was when he was trying to dig him out.
I'm sure there are plenty of skiers who die that are well aware of this hazard, but I'd bet that the majority of casual skiers have never heard of them, especially around here. I don't think I've ever seen any warnings posted at the resorts. Condolences to the friends and families.
post #5 of 17
Heading out to Steamboat in March, will certainly be thinking about this issue. The Weather Channel does an Epic Condition's episode on Steamboat and mentions the trees wells and how dangerous they are. I have been aware of them since hearing about them on there, but this is the first incidence I have heard about on here. Scary and something to be aware of.
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Unless you're grossly incompetent you can hold a line on Morningside. That got me thinking about this a little more over laundry and I started wondering if the frenzy to score "freshies" might play a role in this kind of accident. Wednesday was a nice day with a foot and a bit more later in the week. By Friday... actually 12noon Wednesday... all the untouched fluffy stuff was skied off of course except just close by the trees. I am speculating about what actually happened but ...boy... the glorification of the life in the white room with face shots every 30 seconds might deserve a little readjustment. For us East Coast types anyway who visit a mountain for a week and don't really know their way around.
post #7 of 17
Very sad.

I am going to Steamboat with my wife and neighbors in March. Being from the east I've never heard of this kind of danger.
post #8 of 17
The biggest takeaway I get from these stories is to ski with others in the trees. Without knowing the details of every incident, I think some of these are just hazards that everyone faces who chooses to ski tight trees after a big storm. That and maybe ski with an avalung ....
post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by ct55 View Post
The biggest takeaway I get from these stories is to ski with others in the trees. Without knowing the details of every incident, I think some of these are just hazards that everyone faces who chooses to ski tight trees after a big storm. That and maybe ski with an avalung ....
Absolutely agree with you. I ski 50% of the time by myself. The ONLY thing that scares me are tree wells. It is so easy to catch an edge and end up in one. So, when I'm skiing by myself, trees are off limits. At least if I hurt myself in other areas when I'm "alone" I have a better chance of someone finding me!
post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by ct55 View Post
The biggest takeaway I get from these stories is to ski with others in the trees...
Yeah, also there are existing threads on here detailing the "buddy system" that could be good to reference for your own skiing/riding (I don't know anything about the current incidents and am not referring to them in saying this). Without actually following it skiing with others actually won't help you.
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by northeasterner View Post
I don't think its any coincidence that both of these skiers were from the northeast. Before I started reading this board a couple of years ago I had never heard of a treewell, never mind how dangerous that are. To think that both of the guys were on intermediate trails just blows my mind. I wouldn't be surprised if his friend was not aware how serious this issue was when he was trying to dig him out.
I'm sure there are plenty of skiers who die that are well aware of this hazard, but I'd bet that the majority of casual skiers have never heard of them, especially around here. I don't think I've ever seen any warnings posted at the resorts. Condolences to the friends and families.
Bingo! Yup, it never ceases to amaze me at the cavalier attitude many intermediates have, the disregard of warnings or the failure to investigate the risks of the terrain thier getting into. I see it all the time. case in point:

Skiing in Jackson, we were about to drop in just below the expert chutes, a guy in a neon one-piece and 150 something rentals skis over. he was clearly over his head and should not have been there. We dropped in quickly to keep away from him. He dropped in, and tumbled down. I called up to see if he was OK, he was but it could have easily been a different story. Tree wells are another thing that people either think your joking about (I had this happen) or just disregard the danger.
post #12 of 17
I plan on skiing a lot of trees at Steamboat in March. I will let everyone I'm with know about the danger of the tree wells. Will also for sure use the buddy system in the trees.

I have really heard a lot about tree wells this year, and in every case, relating to Steamboat. Everywhere else has to have tree well problems, too, right? I have been kiing the deep pow in the trees for years in Utah. Surely they would have the same problem with all their snow.
post #13 of 17
There was a tree well death at Revelstoke on opening weekend, and I'm pretty sure I heard of another posted on epic in December. It's also been a bad year for avalanche deaths up here (19 by last count I believe) including some inbounds.
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by wasatchskier View Post
I plan on skiing a lot of trees at Steamboat in March. I will let everyone I'm with know about the danger of the tree wells. Will also for sure use the buddy system in the trees.

I have really heard a lot about tree wells this year, and in every case, relating to Steamboat. Everywhere else has to have tree well problems, too, right? I have been kiing the deep pow in the trees for years in Utah. Surely they would have the same problem with all their snow.
I forget the reasons why but in snowbird we really dont get tree wells....in fact statistoc data shows we have the lowest rate of tree well deaths in the west
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by wasatchskier View Post
I plan on skiing a lot of trees at Steamboat in March. I will let everyone I'm with know about the danger of the tree wells. Will also for sure use the buddy system in the trees...
also attach a survival whistle to your jacket.
post #16 of 17
Bush, I wonder if it's the type/size/age of the evergreens? According to local history, almost all of the AltaBird area in the canyon was stripped of timber to support the mining industry. Almost everything you see today has grown back since the 1930s or so -- it was nearly barren when Alta started as a ski area in the 1930s. So tree age may have something to do with it. The other thing I noticed was that the predominant variety of evergreen at AltaBird (I saw two varieties) was quite tall and skinny -- not the kind that would support large tree wells.

Does anybody know the types of evergreens out at AltaBird? I saw one of a spruce or fir variety (most of the trees fell into this variety, the tall skinny ones) and then a few trees that had characteristics of pines. I asked a couple people out there, but nobody really knew.
post #17 of 17
Tree wells are a function of the lower branches and their distance to the ground/snow level. With more 'air' under the branches, snow fills in more evenly. Low lying branches create steeper changes between the snow level and well depth.

Had a bit of a scare a couple weeks ago with a group of middle schoolers where one kid, unseen by anyone launched into a deep tree well and out of sight. I skied down on 'sweep' and if not for his yelling after I was well below him, I never would have known he was there and very stuck, 4' down, and lost pole, 'augerred' skis. :

On a cat trip with the snow deeper than from my shoulder to the tip of my ski pole (72" in less than a week), a boarder got caught in a well and with no 'platform' it was impossible for him to get out and it took quite a while for a few of us to extract him. It was not a day to be boarding without an exit strategy. In a later run I subsequently ejected from my demo skis in an open area, head first in the snow and could not breath nor move to the surface. If not for a skiing partner, who knows..... I could not even get my skis back on without the use of his skis for temporary support.....

Bottomless powder also comes with inherent hazards. Ski with a partner, pay attention and bring a snorkel.
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