I didn't believe I could fall in a tree well large enough to pose a problem to me either, until it happened this year at the Utah Gathering. On one of the tree runs, Gary skier was coming down behind me, but I set off well ahead of him and came within 1 foot of a tree's edge (it was a tree run), and suddenly felt myself flipping in the air and thought, OMG, I can't believe I can be going into a tree well like this, I didn't even hit the edge.
Prior to reading about them on Epic Ski I had never heard of ski well dangers, I have heli skied, ski OOB at Panorama BC and else where many times, and skied tons of trees, and had never even heard of tree wells.
As I was flipping into the one on my run at Snow Bird this year, In Utah, I couldn't believe it was happening and I was falling in backwards. I grabbed two branches of the two small trees (this was a clump of about 6 trees, one larger 4 smaller and the tree well formed around all of them as one hole), hoped the skimpy branches would hold and held my head out that way. My skis lay diagonally across the hole , just like the pictures you've seen and if i let go of the branches my head would be in upside down.
I remembered, don't struggle, as the snow came in around my face, I pulled myself out higher and the branches held. I could see just above the hole and was watching for Gary Skier to come past so i could yell for help. It seemed about 5 minutes before I spotted Gary Skier on the very far side of the run and he was having a great run, and never heard my yell for help. I wish I had bought that whistle I'd told Old Boot I was going to buy. I kept envisioning the Epic Gather Post including a somber note" LS was found upside down in a tree well" and I couldn't believe it was happening.
As a former gymnast, with my skis above my hips, my arms holding these two flimsy branches, I was thinking...how do I flip myself up onto the snow. I checked my skis, and I could extend one leg far enough to reach the snow at the edge and braces it in the snow, the other ski still across the hole from side to side. I made a flip with hips while pulling with the arms up and managed to flip myself out, to the snow and out across the run. I lay there totally out of breath and hot from over exersion and still had to get my poles, one being on the far side of the tree well and about 1o feet up the hill, with only about 3 " not buried in the snow.
At this time a lady and two other skiers were coming down right in my path. I asked her if she could see the little piece of my pole on the far side of the tree well sticking out, she could and I asked if she could ski that side and reach for it but not get near the edge as it was a very large tree well. She reached my pole, and the other I had managed to get already.
I was so hot from the exertion I actually took off my coat (probably a bad thing hehe), and mittens and skied down to where the rest of the bears were meeting. JohnL gave me hell for the coat and told me to put it back on lol.
Anyhow, from my long story, I now have a whistle, I'm heading to Whistler this weekend and I just got off the phone with my brother who is meeting me to tell him my new rules for skiing west and make sure he picks up a whistle and then started reading these stories. I have asked that my brother keep me in sight and that we have a meet up spot on each run, in case someone hits a tree, falls and gets injured or ends up in a tree well and bring a whistle. Best, keep each other in sight but if something happens and you lose sight we will have a meet up spot.