The Inertia Gear Editor

The Inertia

The hazards of tree wells have been on the minds of everyone in the snowsports community recently. And with good reason after video surfaced last week of one insanely lucky snowboarder at Mt. Baker who was found, and rescued by a passing skier after becoming hopelessly stuck in a tree well. The footage is equal parts heart-warming and horrifying. Heart-warming to see the quick reactions of the skier, and horrifying because, well, the sort of claustrophobic can’t-move, can’t-breathe scenario of being stuck in a tree well is literally the stuff of nightmares.

With that in mind, it seemed like the perfect time to unearth the above video on tree-well safety and rescues from Whitewater Ski Resort up in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia. Here’s what the Whitewater Ski Patrol have to say about the subject:

Evergreen trees in particular (fir, hemlock, etc.) can have large, deep tree wells that form when snow doesn’t get packed down around a tree base. These wells can contain a mix of low-hanging branches, loose snow, and air, so it’s easy for these voids to be hidden from view.
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.

Interested in more tree well content? This is The Inertia‘s own Steve Andrews, spelunking his way deep into the guts of a Whistler Blackcomb tree well for your education and entertainment.


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