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Canada How to protect yourself from dangers of tree wells after 2 deaths at ski resorts

14:51  21 january  2020
14:51  21 january  2020 Source:   cbc.ca

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This claustrophobia inducing video shows the dangers of tree wells when you venture under the rope or into the back Sadly, 20 per cent of all ski and snowboard related deaths occur because of tree wells . Finding somebody trapped and not being able to help, is second only to being stuck yourself .

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a pair of skis in the snow: Skiers and snowboarders who fall into tree wells can suffocate if help doesn't arrive quickly.© Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC Skiers and snowboarders who fall into tree wells can suffocate if help doesn't arrive quickly.

A pair of fatal accidents at ski resorts in the Kootenays over the weekend has outdoor enthusiasts warning of the dangers of tree wells: natural hazards that are found not only in the backcountry, but on resort slopes as well.

Tree wells are deep pockets of loose snow found near the base of evergreen trees. Skiers and snowboarders who fall into the wells can often suffocate if help doesn't come quickly.

Some of them, according to Vancouver-based backcountry skier and touring guide Byron Cole, are deep enough to swallow a six-foot-tall person.

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How dangerous are Colorado's ski slopes? Post to Facebook. Fall into a tree well and the snow acts like quicksand and the more you struggle to get out, the deeper you bury yourself . Deaths due to tree wells account for about 5 percent of the skiing and snowboarding deaths at U.S. resorts .

"If you do fall head first with your skis still above your head and your feet are still locked into the bindings, its almost impossible to get yourself out," said Cole.

Running into trouble among the trees may have killed two men in separate ski resort incidents in the Kootenays this past weekend.

One was snowboarding at Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson and the second was skiing at Fernie Alpine Resort. Both men were found unconscious by the time resort ski patrol got to them.

Whitewater, where the snowboarder was found, posted a bulletin about the dangers of tree wells less than a week before the man's death.

'Stay calm and wait'

Cole said while the gut response may be to try and dig yourself out of the well, you can make the situation worse.

"If you do try to get yourself out, you can knock more snow off the tree ... and you can further bury yourself," he said.

"It's best to just stay calm and wait ... your friends will have to come find you and dig you out."

Cole says the best thing skiers and snowboarders can do to mitigate the risk is to never be on the mountain alone and carry a tracking beacon and whistle.

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