If you are planning to go skiing or snowboarding on a large mountain it is necessary that you learn what to do in case you find yourself in a tree well. Tree wells can be incredibly dangerous and can result in serious injury or even death. That’s why we are going to breakdown exactly how to escape a tree well so you can stay safe on the slopes.
What Is A Tree Well
A tree well is the space under a tree’s lower branches that has significantly less snow than the surrounding area. The trees lower branches stop snow from falling under the tree making a large well close to the base of the tree.
Often times these wells are too deep to climb out of making them incredibly dangerous.
Why Is A Tree Well Dangerous
The main worry of falling into a tree well is snow immersion suffocation. Often times when skiers fall into ski wells it is head first. This means they are typically upside down in the well. This makes it difficult to get out and often results in the skier moving and causing more snow to fall on top of them.
This is not a quick process so if you are not skiing by yourself you should be easily able to dig or pull your fellow skier out before serious harm is done.
How To Avoid A Tree Well
Avoiding a tree well can be tough as they are incredibly tough to spot underneath the thick lower branches of the trees. Though there are a few tips you can follow to help avoid tree wells while skiing.
Assume Every Tree Has A Well
In order to stay as safe as possible it is best you assume that all trees have a tree well hidden under them. The odds you are going to spot one of these wells is quite low which means it is best that you just assume that they are there.
Always Ski With A Buddy
The vast majority of ski well catastrophes occur when the skier is alone. It has been shown that over 90% of skiers were unable to climb out of a ski well alone. Meaning that the most important aspect to get out is to have someone around to help you.
Maintain Visual And Verbal Contact
Similar to our last tip make sure to keep close to your fellow skiers or snowboarders. It is no help having a buddy if they do not know which tree you are under. Staying within ear shot will allow you to hear or be heard if you happen to run into some trouble.
Attach A Whistle To Your Jacket
If you are alone and are not within shouting distance of a fellow skier it can be helpful to have a whistle on your jacket. Having this whistle close to your face may give you an opportunity to alert others of your location.
How To Get Out Of A Tree Well
As we stated earlier crawling out of a tree well yourself is a very difficult task. That being said it can still be helpful to know what to do. Or what not to do when you find yourself in this situation.
First off try to grab the branches trunk or any part of the tree that will prevent you from falling further into the well.
Do not struggle in the snow. Struggling too much will release loose snow and likely bury you further into the tree well.
Try to create some space for breathing. If possible try to create a small area for breathing without moving too much. This will allow you more time for fellow skiers or ski patrol to arrive and help you out of the well.
How To Help A Fellow Skier Out Of A Ski Well
If you cannot spot your fellow skier immediately alert the ski patrol of the situation. You then must listen closely for any calls from your fellow skier. And if possible follow their tracks to see if you can find their location.
If you have found the tree well your skier is in do not try and pull them out the way they fell in. Since they have likely fallen headfirst attempting to pull them out may force their head under the snow.
The more effective strategy is to find where their head is and began tunnelling them a way out. This way they will be able to escape the tree well head first instead of vice versa.
Conclusion Understanding Tree Wells
We hope you enjoyed our guide to understanding tree wells. If you have any questions about this article or tree wells in general please be sure to reach out.
This can be done on our contact page or in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article we hope you check out some of our others such as our guide to snowboarding faster.