When a skier suffocated in a tree-well during Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s opening day in 2007, it was a reminder that the hollows of soft snow underneath coniferous trees can be silent killers—even when you are skiing in-bounds. The statistics aren’t encouraging: staged studies have shown that just one out of every 10 skiers or boarders who fall headfirst into a tree-well is able to escape without help. If you do find yourself face down in a tree-well, try to remember these tips offered by Dr. Robert Cadman, a B.C. ski patrol veteran.
- Follow proper off-piste and tree-skiing protocol by skiing with a buddy and not using your poles’ wrist strap
- Grab any part of the tree you can to keep your head from sinking too deep into the snow.
- Resist the urge to struggle, which might only bring more snow down upon you.
- Try to make a breathing space around your face.
- Don’t try to unclip your skis, unless you are certain you won’t sink any deeper.
- Move your body in a rocking manner to create an air space for yourself. Your ability to survive depends on your ability to keep breathing.
- As long as you don’t suffocate, your body will heat and compact the snow over time, giving you a better chance of being able to wiggle out.