Are you a treehugger? What’s your fav thing about skiing trees? Is it their treasure troves of powder? Perhaps it’s their ‘choose your own adventure’ where you can have wide turns through glades or brief moments dipping in from a groomer. Or you might be an all-in kinda tree skier—running the gauntlet of steep trees of Terra Ratta or Giddy Up Gully… Whatever your flavour there is one, well… many wells to consider. Especially when it comes to tree wells...
What is a tree well?
Tree wells are found anywhere you have deep snow and trees (a.k.a. Whitewater). Basically, the lower branches of the tree keep snow away from the trunk as it accumulates. So, rather than snow packing in close to the tree trunk, a hollow space forms around the trunk, which gets bigger as the snowpack deepens.
Why have I never noticed them before?
It would be easy to assume the typical skier or boarder doesn’t see a tree well because they don’t ski close to trees. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Tree wells are somewhat hidden. Often the branches are in the way, but also the ‘hollow’ space around the trunk sometimes doesn’t look hollow. Loose ice crystals or frost can accumulate around the trunk to make it look packed with snow. Storm cycles can also bring dry, fluffy powder, which can give the illusion that the snow around the trunk is packed down.
So what’s the big deal about tree wells?
Tree wells are a safety hazard—in and out of bounds. If a skier or boarder falls into a tree well upside down there is a risk of suffocation from loose snow if they can’t free themselves and help is not quickly available.
But I am an advanced skier, so tree wells aren’t as dangerous for me?
Anyone can fall into a tree well, regardless of ski or riding ability.
Here are some things to consider about tree wells:
- Assume all trees have tree wells under them, even ones which look small.
- Always ski with a buddy when in trees and stay within voice and visual contact. 90% of people involved in tree well/SIS hazard research experiments could NOT rescue themselves.
- Attach a whistle to your jacket zipper as it could be useful in getting attention if needed.
- If you are a skier, consider skiing tree runs without using your pole straps, so that your hands not restricted by your poles if you do find yourself in a tree well.
For more information in regards to tree wells, as well as tree well safety and accident prevention around tree wells, visit the Deep Snow Safety website.
The more you know, the more you will have a healthy respect for this ski hazard. And then, the more you can safely enjoy endless adventures through the exquisite evergreens that grace Whitewater Ski Resort.