Deep Snow & Treewell Safety
Finding yourself fully buried, or even partially buried can not only be extremely frightening, but is also seriously life threatening. The best way to avoid getting caught in a dangerous deep snow or tree well situation is to always remain on the groomed runs. However, if you plan on venturing off-piste and seeking powder turns, be sure to check out our tips and guidelines first.
Avoid Deep Snow Hazards
The most effective prevention step is to remain on groomed runs, resisting the urge to ski or snowboard through the trees during deep powder conditions, no matter how inviting the untracked powder looks.
If you do decide to venture off the packed or groomed main runs, remember this information and use these guidelines.
Always Ski or Ride With A Partner
REMAIN IN VISUAL CONTACT AT ALL TIMES! It's absolutely critical to keep visual contact with your riding partner. If you lost visual contact with your partner, you could lose your friend.
Visual contact means stopping and watching your partner descend at all times, then proceeding downhill while he or she watches you at all times. It does NO GOOD for your safety if you are under the snow and your partner is waiting for you at the bottom of the lift.
By skiing or riding with another person, identifying each other as partners, and remaining in visual contact you can greatly reduce the time it takes to help if someone falls in deep snow or in a treewell.
"90% of people involved in tree well/SIS hazard research experiments could not rescue themselves."
Carry Rescue & Safety Equipment
Carry the same basic essentials as backcountry skiers or snowboarders. This equipment is readily available and many of the items can be purchased in our gear and gift shops.
- Mobile phone with ski patrol emergency number saved in contacts. Ours is 425.434.6794.
- Avalanche Transceiver/Beacon
- Recco reflector
"70% of all snow immersion suffocation accidents involve tree wells."
Reduce Your Risk While Riding
- Skiers should remove pole straps.
- Trapped skiers have difficulty removing the pole straps, which can hamper efforts to escape or clear an air space to breathe.
- Ski or ride in control.
- Give trees a wide berth. Look at the open spaces between trees not at the trees.
- Take heart and talk about it with your partner on the lift or before you descend. Increased awareness reduces risk of snow immersion suffocation.
What To Do If You or Your Partner Go Down
Snow Immersion Suffocation
if you decide to leave the groomed trails you are voluntarily accepting the risk of a deep snow immersion accident. A deep snow, or tree well immersion accident occurs when a skier or rider falls into an area of deep unconsolidated snow and becomes immobilized and suffocates. Deaths resulting from these kinds of accidents are referred to as a SIS harzards or Snow Immersion Suffocation.
More About Tree Well Safety
Some of the deaths on mountains in North America which have occurred due to tree well incidents may have been avoided had:
- The person been with a partner.
- The partner saw the person fall.
- The partner was close enough to assist digging the victim out in a timely manner.
If you have any question about what a "timely manner" is to assist someone in a tree well, hold your breath now as you are reading this and the amount of time until you need air is approximately how much time your partner has to help get you out of danger. Other factors such as creating an air pocket, having and using an avalung, or the nature of how you fall into the well may extend this critical time frame.
Deep snow and tree well safety information from National Ski Areas Association and SIS Helpers NW (deepsnowsafety.org).