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Video: Phoning from deep inside a tree well

4:35 p.m. on March 30, 2011 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Video: Phoning from deep inside a tree well"

We recently covered tree well safety. Here's a stark safety reminder. James Drummond was snowboarding at California's Mount Shasta Ski Park recently when he crashed and got trapped upside down in a tree well in six feet of snow. His arms were trapped, but he managed to reach his phone in his chest pocket after about 26 minutes. Miraculously he received a call from his wife at the same time, had he...

Full article at http://www.trailspace.com/blog/2011/03/30/phoning-from-tree-well.html

5:06 p.m. on March 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Have to agree... that is wildly unsettling.  Thanks for posting it up.

The best part for me... "(via The Goat and MY HAIRDRESSER)"  That was awesome! 

7:39 p.m. on March 30, 2011 (EDT)
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The best part for me... "(via The Goat and MY HAIRDRESSER)"  That was awesome! 

Yeah, I was getting my hair cut this morning when out of the blue she asked me if I'd seen the video with the guy stuck in a tree well.

I don't usually get outdoor alerts from my hairdresser, so that got my attention.

I can only imagine how scared the snowboarder must have been. Thank goodness he's OK.

8:40 p.m. on March 30, 2011 (EDT)
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We saw a bit more of this last night on the TV news, including his dive into the tree well ("point of view", which could be a bit more unsettling - you want to say "hey, guy, that's a tree, turn! turn! turn!")  and getting pulled out, plus some photos the ski patrol took of him after he was pulled out. He went to the bottom of the hill on his own.

Tree well inversions are pretty common here in the California resorts, with one or two deaths a season - all snow boarders.

3:48 a.m. on March 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Bill, I think a reason for that is it's a fair bit easier for a skier to eject from their gear and then dig themselves out. If a snowboarder is inverted with limited mobility they'd have to be very flexible to get out unaided. I don't know the worldwide stats but from what I hear it's relatively even between skiers and snowboarders falling prey to tree wells, only that skiers can extricate themselves somewhat easier, situation dependent of course.

 

 

As more and more people head off piste these days, the education of potential situations like this should be made more available to punters, at least for awareness and maybe provoke conversation and further research. 

In trees it's crucial to keep visual contact with every member of the group by watching them ski to a marked point or in smaller groups by "leap frogging" so as at least one person is always watching what someone else is doing.

I see a lot of people taking 2way radios into BC terrain with the idea of not having to maintain visual contact with their group all the time. Hypothetically; I'm in a team using this method, we meet up at the run out after an 800m vertical run and someone is missing and we can't make radio contact with them. We all have to boot back up, possibly through knee-waist deep snow for hundreds of vertical metres until we find a line that ends at a tree with a snowboard base sticking up out of it. Then we need to rescue and administer first aid due to the time our best friend has been buried with possible trauma from a collision.

I've done training like this and I'm always completely physically and mentally spent by the time I start digging. I can't imagine having to do it for real, I therefore try to avoid situations that will unnecessarily or recklessly endanger me and my group.

This has some good tips http://www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com/prevention1.php

5:58 a.m. on March 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Tree wells are not the only woody hazard to off piste; I prefer to avoid tree glades altogether if skiing with any speed.  Submerged down wood can snag a passing skier, flipping them head over heels if they are lucky; or halting them abruptly, breaking a leg if less fortunate.  All of which suggests off piste and wilderness skiing require a much more conservative approach, particularly regarding speed and route selection.  There is a strong argument that tree well spelunking events should never happen if one practices any degree of caution in the back country.

Ed

8:06 a.m. on March 31, 2011 (EDT)
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For anyone who missed it the first time we posted it:

For a wealth of info on tree well safety, visit www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com, a collaboration of the NW Avalanche Institute, Mt. Baker Ski Area, Crystal Mountain, and Dr. Robert Cadman.

There's also a printable version of their educational brochure, Tree Well & Deep Snow Safety Info (pdf).

www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com

11:33 a.m. on March 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Bill, I think a reason for that is it's a fair bit easier for a skier to eject from their gear and then dig themselves out. If a snowboarder is inverted with limited mobility they'd have to be very flexible to get out unaided. I don't know the worldwide stats but from what I hear it's relatively even between skiers and snowboarders falling prey to tree wells, only that skiers can extricate themselves somewhat easier, situation dependent of course.

Yes, it is pretty obvious that skiers on downhill gear can more readily release. Not so much so for tele or randonee, though. But ski patrol stats show more boarders dropping into tree wells and hitting trees than skiers. You would think that boards could be maneuvered more easily than skis, but apparently not. OTOH, hikers and snowshoers also drop into tree wells, especially hidden tree wells in the Northeast (shorter trees that are completely covered so you aren't aware until you find the soft spot and drop down through the snow).

However, in the full version of the video, the guy is just at the edge of a groomed run (actually on the run before he comes up to the edge, heading straight for the tree). You start wondering why he didn't turn instead of heading straight at the tree. One thing you learn and are taught about tree skiing is that you tend to go where you are looking, so look between the trees instead of at the tree if you don't want to hit the tree or drop into the well. In the excerpt in Alicia's original post, at one point you hear another passing boarder (the sound is pretty poor in that clip, but much better in the one on abc7news - don't know if it is still there). It can be a hard thing to learn, since the tendency before you get taught and gain a lot of experience is to stare in horrified fascination at that tree that OMG! I'M GOING TO HIT THE TREE!!! instead of looking at the path between trees that you really want to go.

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