January 11, 2011

Whitefish Mountain Resort Officials Advise Tree Well Awareness

Whitefish, MT - After losing one skier and one snowboarder to off-piste tree well accidents, Whitefish Mountain Resort officials are urging those wishing to take advantage of the deep powder covering the mountain to familiarize themselves with risks and safety techniques related to Non-Avalanche Related Snow Immersion Deaths, or NARSIDs.

A 29-year-old snowboarder lost his life in a tree well in an off-piste area at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Saturday, Jan. 8, less than a week after a 16-year-old skier was removed from life support after becoming trapped in a tree well in the same area of the mountain on Dec. 29.

“This has been a very sad and tragic two weeks for all of us at Whitefish Mountain Resort,” said Winter Sports, Inc. President and CEO Daniel Graves. “Losing three lives in two weeks, two in tree wells and one due to natural causes, affects us all deeply, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of the victims.”

A tree well is an area of deep, unconsolidated snow that forms beneath the overhanging branches of evergreen trees as the surrounding snow pack deepens. When a skier or snowboarder falls into a tree well, the loose snow packs in around and on top of them, making it very difficult to move and/or free oneself. Further struggle can worsen the predicament.

According to the industry-created website TreeWellDeepSnowSafety.com, 90% of volunteers placed into tree wells in two experiments could not rescue themselves.

For this reason, the only way to effectively prevent tree well and other NARSID deaths is to ski within sight of a ski buddy at all times, close enough to reach them in the amount of time a person can reasonably hold their breath.

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