Tree Well Safety at Big White Ski Resort

Posted On: December 31, 2018 |
Skier in Tree Well
A tree well is a hole or depression that forms around the base of a coniferous (pine) tree. The holes are formed when low branches stop the snow from compacting and settling around the trunk. The hole is hidden from view by the other branches on the tree. There is no easy way to identify if a particular tree has a dangerous tree well by sight, due to the fact that the low lying branches block sight of the hole. Therefore, treat any tree you cannot see the base of as a potentially dangerous tree well situation.

Photo was taken December 30 at Big White Ski Resort, by Todd Ganie, who was riding in the gladed terrain on skiers right of the Paradise run. This situation turned out OK due to the fact that he was riding in sight of a buddy.

Information courtesy of www.deepsnowsafety.org, visit their site to learn more.

PREVENTION TECHNIQUES

The easiest way to avoid tree wells is to avoid tree well areas! Stick to marked groomed runs. If you must venture into UNGROOMED terrain:

    • Ride or ski with a partner and keep your partner in sight at all times.
    • Ski or ride in control.
    • Give tree wells a wide berth. Look at the open spaces between trees not at the trees.
    • Skiers should remove ski pole straps.
    • In dense tree areas or in poor visibility, ski or ride short pitches and stop to regroup often - stay within sight of your partner!
    • Carry safety equipment including, but not limited to:
      • Cell phone with resort ski patrol number - for Big White Ski Resort this is 250-491-6160
      • Transceiver/beacon
      • Avalung
      • Whistle
      • Shovel
      • Probe
      • Recco

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE IN A WELL

  • Yell or use whistle to get your partners attention.
  • Do whatever you can to keep your head above the surface of the snow including rolling, grabbing tree branches or the tree trunk. If possible, keep your feet below level of your head.
  • If you become immersed, make a space around your face and protect your airway – resist the urge to struggle, it could compromise your airspace and entrap you further.
  • Stay calm to conserve air.
  • Trust your partner is on their way.
  • If possible, use your cell phone to call ski patrol at (250-491-6160). Save this number before you go out riding!

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PARTNER GOES DOWN

More than half of all SIS victims were with partners that did not see them go down. Lose sight of your partner and you could lose your friend. If you lose contact with your partner, assume they need help. Many SIS victims have died while their partners were waiting at the bottom of a lift.

  • Don’t leave to get help – Stay with your partner!
  • Call for additional resources. Use a whistle or yell for assistance. If possible, call ski patrol or the resort's emergency phone number.
  • Evaluate scene safety for yourself.
  • IMMEDIATELY begin snow immersion rescue efforts.
    • Go directly for the airway, and keep it clear, be careful not to knock more snow into the hole. Clear any snow from the airway and continue necessary first aid or extrication effort.
  • Do not try to pull the victim out the way they fell in. Instead, determine where the head is and tunnel in from the side.
    • When tunnelling directly for the airway be careful not to knock more snow into the hole. Continue expanding the tunnel to the airway until you can extricate the body. Efficient “strategic shovelling techniques” with multiple rescuers is very useful.

If we all follow these rules we can all have a safe and enjoyable winter season. Stay safe out there! If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at concierge@bigwhite.com, or have a chat with one of our friendly ski patrollers out on the mountain.

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