By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
The snow in this week’s forecast is good news for skiers and snowboarders, but powder days also bring a new risk: tree wells.
January is the National Ski Areas Association safety month, which means all month, Mt. Bachelor will be releasing videos on its social media channels to educate guests about how to stay safe on the mountain.
In a video posted to the Bachelor Facebook page Monday morning, Betsy Norsen, director of mountain operations, explained what riders should look out for.
“The bigger trees that have the big tree trunks are not the hazard out there, but the trees that have really long, low-lying branches that create an air pocket where the snow doesn’t fill up alongside the trunk,” Norsen said in the video, which was filmed in the 2019-2020 season.
Tree well accidents happen when a skier falls into an area of deep snow near a tree and suffocates.
In 2018, two people died after falling in tree wells at Mt. Bachelor. Another person died in March 2019 of the same cause.
Last January, Central Oregon Daily interviewed a Bend resident who pulled an unconscious snowboarder from a tree well and saved his life.
“We strongly encourage all guests to ski and ride with a partner and make sure they’re always staying in visual contact and make sure you educate yourself before you get off the groomed runs,” Leigh Capozzi, director of brand and communications for Mt. Bachelor, said.
Cappozi said Mt. Bachelor does what it can to inform skiers and snowboarders about the risks that come with powder days.
“At the top of all chair lifts we have tree well NSAA signs that are up at the top of each lift,” Capozzi said. “Additional signs at ticketing windows and again on the information site.”
You can learn more about the risks of tree wells at NSAA’s website.