Tree Well Safety
These series of storms with cold dry snow creates some amazing skiing and riding but always make sure you are skiing with a buddy when in the trees. Tree wells can be difficult to get out of alone and by using the buddy system and maintaining visual contact with your partner, it makes a safer experience for all.
Nationwide resorts are experiencing and hearing reports about near misses with tree well
incidents (SIS – snow immersion suffocation). While SIS incidents are rare, they are one
of the risks inherent to the sport of skiing and snowboarding, and such incidents can be prevented.
Safety remains one of the highest priorities in the ski industry, and ski areas focus on in-bounds tree well and deep snow mitigation, safety, and guest education measures. The responsibility to understand such risks is on skiers and snowboarders. They should comply with safety recommendations, including avoiding the base of trees, where snow often accumulates and the hazards of confinement are higher. They should always use the buddy system and ski or snowboard within direct sight of a partner, especially when they are off of a designated trail, within the trees or gladed terrain, or in the backcountry. When skiing or boarding in such conditions, guests should always follow the ski industry’s long-standing “Your Responsibility Code,” including complying with all signs, warnings, and closures. In addition, guests should carry or wear a whistle in case they become engulfed in deep snow or a tree well. Also, it is wise for all skiers and boarders to enter the ski area’s ski patrol contact phone number into their Smartphones—with the advent of Smartphone technology (and voice command features like Siri on the Apple iPhones), if a person becomes entrapped in deep snow or a tree well, using voice command to call ski patrol can be a critical hands-free tool.
The SIS safety education website (www.deepsnowsafety.org) is an excellent educational resource for skiers and riders.
WHAT TO DO IN A SNOW IMMERSION SITUATION
WHAT TO DO IF YOU GO DOWN: 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 or the resort’s emergency number.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PARTNER GOES DOWN: 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. 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 victim out the way they fell in. Instead, determine where the head is and tunnel in from the side. When tunneling 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 shoveling techniques” with multiple rescuers is very useful.
Ski The Northwest Rockies is a non-profit trade association representing the Inland Northwest snowsports industry, this includes four ski areas, 49 Degrees North, Lookout Pass, Mt. Spokane and Silver Mountain. The mission is to raise awareness of Inland Northwest Skiing and Snowboarding opportunities.
Contact: Karen Stebbins
Ski NW Rockies Administrator
(509) 621-0125 office
January 15, 2020