Tree wells are a serious danger at ski resorts in the western half of North America.
Here’s a quick definition from SIS in case you need a refresher:
“A tree well is a void or depression that forms around the base of a tree can and contain a mix of low hanging branches, loose snow and air. Evergreen trees in particular (fir, hemlock, etc) can have large, deep tree wells that form when low hanging branches block snow from filling in and consolidating around the base of the tree. These voids can be hidden from view by the tree’s low hanging branches.”
The video below was created by ski patrol at Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, BC to show how to properly rescue a skier that has fallen into a deep tree well.
One of their brave patrollers throws himself headfirst, and two others work hard to rescue him:
Pretty scary, right?
Here’s a list of tips from Whitewater if you ever find yourself in a similar situation:
If your partner gets stuck in a tree well, here are some tips to help get them out:
-Don’t leave to get help – stay with your partner.
-Keep ski or board attached; this will stop them from going in deeper.
-Call for additional resources. Use a whistle or yell for assistance; ask someone to call for Ski Patrol.
-Evaluate scene safety for yourself.
-IMMEDIATELY begin snow immersion rescue efforts.
-Keep your partner’s airway clear. Be careful not to knock more snow into the tree well.
-Determine where their head is and tunnel in from the side or below. Do not try to pull your partner out the way they fell in.
-Continue expanding the tunnel to the airway until you can safely extricate your partner.
Please remember that the video from Whitewater Ski Patrol was conducted in a controlled environment with trained professionals.
The stress and panic of an actual tree well immersion can be overwhelming in the moment. That’s why it’s extremely important to brush up on your safety skills no matter your ability.
The video below shows a father rescuing his son from a deep tree well in Idaho a couple of years ago in a real-life incident.
Check it out:
Please stay safe out there, friends.