Featured Tree Well Safety

Discussion in 'General Skiing' started by TheHitman, Sep 10, 2018.

  1. TheHitman

    TheHitman Booting up Skier

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    Obviously, the safest thing to do is ski with a partner. But let's face it, partners don't always stay with you. And on some occasions, you may wander into the trees alone.

    So what kind of safety devices or methods can be taken?

    Would an airbag backpack be appropriate for inbound skiing?

    Would a snorkel breathing device help?

    How about a whistle?

    Other ideas?
     
  2. Bad Bob

    Bad Bob old n' slow Skier

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    When skiing solo especially if going off the beaten track, which are most ski days, there are a few things I do in the name of safety: a whistle attached high on the strap of my backpack for just in case. wear a coat that almost glows in the dark, and try to stay within view of a lift. The best answer as you stated is ski with others.

    #1 advice on this subject; don't get stuck in a treewell.
     
  3. cantunamunch

    cantunamunch Meh Skier

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    - Don't go into a tight tree line if you can't see the exit. Especially when solo.

    - Don't brake or stop for a look-see or a line change. That braking or stop manoeuver can put you right in the well you didn't spot. Flow and anticipation are your friends.

    - Think at least 3 turns ahead. If you can't see three turns+ ahead, don't go in there solo. Just don't.
     
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  4. TheArchitect

    TheArchitect Expert...only in my mind Skier

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    I adhere to cantunamunch's advice and I have a Black Diamond Avalung I wear out west.
     
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  5. jmeb

    jmeb Stereotypical Front Range Weekend Warrior Skier

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    For inbounds skiing, maybe. But they won't help in a tree well situation at all. The only work during an active slide -- helping the skier "float" to the top due to increased size.

    Both of these are a good idea. An Avalung is a useful device in this situation. But you really need to ski with it in your mouth when in avalanche/tree well area -- not just have it on.

    Whistle is a great, cheap, light, and useful device.
     
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  6. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    I keep a whistle on my jacket zipper pull. I don't like the odds of me being able to dig in a pocket and get the whistle to my face without losing it.

    I don't even know how much it helps to ski with a partner, unless you're staying exactly in each other's tracks at exactly the same pace - and then, will you notice when the person behind you disappears?

    I don't know if it really helps, but I've been doing decline situps at increasingly upright angles. Maybe it will help me get out.

    I got partially stuck in a tree well last spring. These were in very thinly spaced trees - not even a glade, really - and even though I wasn't fully submersed, my feet were in the snow uphill of my upper body, and it was hell on wheels to try to pop the binding or get the ski to a more favorable position. So I started yelling for help, but even though people were skiing a well populated traverse maybe 10 ft above my position, they couldn't hear me until I blew my whistle, and even then were confused for a bit. Without them, I felt fully stuck - in good repair (except for a knee strain I noticed later in the day) and with my head and upper body fully out of the snow, but still stuck. It was disconcerting.

    I suspect that if you're skiing trees, you're accepting some level of risk, even if you're very careful.
     
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  7. Talisman

    Talisman Getting off the lift Team Gathermeister

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    Wearing an avalanche transponder and skiing with a buddy and others who are equipped with transponders, the skills to use them, shovels and probes would help in tree well entrapment circumstances.
     
  8. KingGrump

    KingGrump Most Interesting Man In The World Team Gathermeister

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    Most of the responses have covered the other points pretty well so I'll focus on the partner bit. If your partner does not stay with you then you should seriously consider getting a new partner.
     
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  9. François Pugh

    François Pugh Out on the slopes Skier

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    Don't ski alone, carry a whistle are two good pieces of advice, but assuming nobody is coming to get you in the next 15 minutes...

    Be able to release your bindings while hanging upside from them without losing hold of your skis. The old Tyrolia 490 bindings helped with that, the new Tyrolia bindings - not so much. If you are near the outside edge of the tree well, you may be able to use your skis as a shuffling step ladder to get out. If you are really in it, the snow will likely be too soft for that. If you are near enough to the trunk, you may be able to climb your way out. If so do it now; the oxygen is being used up.
     
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  10. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    This was one frightening/frustrating thing about my (relatively innocuous) tree well experience. I was only in the snow a couple of feet, but the snow just collapsed when I tried to create any sort of platform. It's amazing how hard it is to create that platform when your feet are sideways to the snow.
     
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  11. Sibhusky

    Sibhusky Out on the slopes Skier

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    There's a woman here I won't ski with as she has vanished twice with me in the trees. It is even worse than being alone as when you are alone, you're worrying more.

    I think trees are just ducky if you can see three turns ahead, but we don't have a lot of that here. In fact, the places we have that, I don't really consider "trees".
     
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  12. silverback

    silverback Getting on the lift Skier

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    I once rescued someone in a well at Sun Valley and I second the suggestion for bright clothing/gear. It was an upside down and stuck skier in a very unpopulated area late in the day. He didn't hear me and I didn't hear him. There was only one other set of tracks in those trees that I was kind of following and I lost them and looked around a second. I saw a brightly colored ski boot out of the corner of my eye. Luckily he had an air pocket, the snow was deep (30+ inches overnight) and heavy and he had been there a while. It took me a while to get to him in the deep snow and once I got his bindings released he was able to turn right side up, said he was okay and I took off. I sometimes think of him and wonder who he was.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018
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  13. Pete in Idaho

    Pete in Idaho Out on the slopes Skier

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    Trees and tree wells. Heres a few things I do and a couple are new to this thread.

    Yes partners are always good. Preferably someone you ski with that is pretty much the same ability as yourself. As stated we all don't ski at the same speed or the same line, so what good is a partner who loses you or vice versa? Heres what I do to overcome this problem. Prior to going into the trees have a plan with your partner. You will wait for each other at the bottom or designated spot. Aways carry a whiste, whistling long blasts means you are delayed but ok, go ahead without me. Hurried short blasts mean I am hurt get the patrol. Obviously if your partner is out of earshot this won't work, so if your partner doesn't show up in say 15 mins, go get patrol and show them where you were skiing.

    I don't like black clothes or forest green clothes. It is really hard to pick up someone in the trees in these colors.
    I ski the trees a lot and wear med. blue jacket and when you buy a new coat be aware of the visibility problems if you are a tree skier.

    Only once have I ever had a close encounter with a tree well. When I realized there was a chance I was going to go into a well, I immediately did a butt stop and went in skis lst and because of this I only went into the actual well a little because my skis stopped me.

    Always ski the GAPS which keeps me away from tree wells to a certain degree.

    Carrying a cell phone can also help sometimes. Whistle should be easy to reach. I also carry a small pocket knife that is very sharp in case my clothing, pole strap has be be cut/removed to free me, or someone else.

    If I am skiing alone that day I will tell someone on the hill I know that I am off to the backside alone and if I don't show up in the bar at the end of the day then they know where I was/am.

    AND ABOVE ALL. Don't look behind you for your partner or anyone while you are skiing. I committed this mortal sin and paid the price, broken wrist and:

    crash 001.JPG
     
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  14. Posaune

    Posaune sliding Skier

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    Don't rely 100% on partners, or equipment. They MIGHT help, but they won't be any good if you are the uphill skier and you suddenly dive into a tree well. The snow is soft, nobody is watching since you're uphill (unless they're stopped and looking back at you) and even if they see you go into the well, they won't be able to get to you easily since they have to wade uphill in a bunch of soft snow.

    All of the ideas mentioned above work only some of the time. There is no guarantee. The best idea is to not get into one in the first place. Understand that you are gambling each time you go into the trees, or even when you are skiing on an open slope, but are next to the trees. I almost lost my grandson in one last season on a beginner cat track when he went head first down the hole at the side of the run. Nasty, nasty stuff.

    Here's a link to a page at the Mt. Baker Ski Area's web site that speaks directly to tree well safety. It's a big concern out here with all of the snow we get.

    http://www.deepsnowsafety.org/
     
  15. oldschoolskier

    oldschoolskier Out on the slopes Skier

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    I watched the Mt Baker video. Not much beyond what has already been discussed on this thread, which don’t get me wrong is great awareness to a hidden and unsuspected danger, experienced or not.

    I think the next thing should be what equipment and techniques should you use (and practice) to self rescue in these situations, because as I understand this if you ski them you will eventually experience them.
     
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  16. Thread Starter
    TS
    TheHitman

    TheHitman Booting up Skier

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    My partner is often my 17 year old son. Have you tried skiing with a teenager? They don't have the best attention spans even if you can keep up with them.
     
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  17. markojp

    markojp mtn rep for the gear on my feet Industry Insider Instructor

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    You might slide in feet first and luck out, but if you go in head first on a big day and no one sees you, all the ab workouts and 25 year old bindings in the world probably won't save you. You won't get to the whistle, or to your phone. Hopefully someone will see you. While you're hanging upside down, don't squirm... You just go in further and/or the snow just slides in the punch bowl. Yes, wear a beacon. It might be the only way other than a lucky sighting of your track or ski sticking out that anyone finds you alive.... or at least help with body recovery. Your partner or others skiing in the trees, they'll need a shovel otherwise they're not likely be able to move enough snow to get you out in a timely manner. Best thing we can all do is be very aware of anything that doesn't look right when we're in the trees... A hand, a pole, a ski tail, a track that stops. When you find someone in trouble, then blow your whistle to get others to come help. All this isn't to scare the crap out of anyone, but just to be realistic and aware. Whoop'in and making noise is good and fun. Playing 'Marco Polo' with kids works too. Ears and voices are as important as eyes.
     
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  18. KingGrump

    KingGrump Most Interesting Man In The World Team Gathermeister

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    I understand what you are saying. My son is 23 and we've been skiing together since he was 2.
    In my family, skiing safety and awareness are often discussed. One of the points we often talk about is the concept and awareness of over terrain. When we are skiing in pair and/or in group the pace and terrain is dictated by the weakest skier. Also if we are skiing in a group, we will have a sweeper trailing the group (overlook) just to make sure everyone is making their way down. The sweeper is generally the second strongest skier in the group and usually skis a more conservative line. .
     
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  19. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    So, what, just stay still and hope someone finds you ...?
     
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  20. Fishbowl

    Fishbowl A Parallel Universe Skier

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    This is the classic dilemma in any emergency......stay put and wait to be rescued, or attempt self rescue?

    I think the best you can do in a tree well incident is to evaluate your circumstances and make the best choice you can. Attempting self rescue could make your situation worse, but if it was the last run of the day, you were alone, caught the ski bus and won’t be missed for a while, do everything you can to get out on your own, even if it puts you at greater immediate risk.
     
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