Snow Angell: Ski coach saves snowboarder found stuck in tree well


Geoff Angell is a coach for the Mount Bachelor Sports Education Foundation. Sunday morning, he headed out with a group of kids for a few runs down the mountain.

They were in the woods between Olympia and Old Skyliner when they heard yelling.

“So I skied down, and I could see that there was just a snowboard with feet attached and legs going in to a tree well, in the little trees, they were just little scrub trees,” Angell said. 

The snowboarder was buried headfirst in a grove of small trees. Angell waded in to chest deep powder to help.

“When we pulled him out he was just limp. He was passed out. He was real close to being hypoxic and not having enough air there.”

Two other passersby helped Angell pull the snowboarder out while others called ski patrol.

Ski patrol came and took the 19 year old away to be treated.

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

Tree wells are an ever present danger for skiers and boarders at Mt. Bachelor who venture off the groomers to find powder staches and untouched glades.

In March, a skier died after falling into a tree well. In 2018, two skiers died in tree wells on the same day.

Angell posted the story on Facebook to remind people about the dangers of skiing off trail and the necessity of skiing with a partner.

“100 yards ahead of them is not going to do it,” he said. “I got off my skis and I was up to my chest, you’re not going to be able to walk uphill to save anybody. So keep that in mind if you have to save somebody. Are they close enough to get to?”

Angell — a former helicopter skiing guide and paramedic — says don’t underestimate small trees. They can have deep and dangerous wells. And always make sure to keep an eye out for each other.

“We have to have self reliance out there. Even at Mt. Bachelor or any ski resort, you have to be relient on you and your buddy to stay safe.”


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