▶️ ‘Recognize it’s real’ – Rescue at Mt. Bachelor highlights the dangers of tree wells, skiing alone

By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY

Nearly 70 inches of powder is good news for skiers and snowboarders, but with new snow comes new hazards, like tree wells.

“Large amounts, quick accumulations, it puts the risk up pretty high,” said Mt. Bachelor Director of Operations Tom Lomax. 

On Sunday, Bend resident Geoff Angell saved the life of a snowboarder who had ventured off the groomers and got stuck in a tree well.

“He said, I thought I was going to die,” Angell said. 

Angell’s story is a reminder of the dangers of skiing off trail after a new dump of snow.

“When we’re in a storm cycle, when we’ve had 65 inches, that’s when we really start talking about it,” Lomax said. 

Lomax says tree well incidents could increase with the emergence of new ski and snowboard designs, made specifically for deep snow.

“Wide skis has made deep snow accessible for intermediate skiers,” he said. “It use to just be expert skiers.”

To ski safe, riders need to know what a tree well looks like.

“There are big hemlocks up here, but there are small trees that are just as dangerous,” Lomax said. 

It’s important to ski with a partner, and stay close enough to the partner that you could help them quickly if they were to fall in.

“The statistics show that your partner will keep you alive,” he said. 

Lomax also recommends skiing with a personal beacon, avalanche probe and shovel if you’re going off-trail.

With the new snow, Mt. Bachelor is providing more information on tree wells and how to avoid them at their website.

“The key message is recognizing it’s real.”

 

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