I have talked about tree wells here quite a bit lately. In the Pacific Northwest, home of large trees and even larger tree wells, they are a silent threat. At Crystal Mountain, some of the best powder is in the trees. Places like Left Angle, Bear Pits, and O Meadows hold secret stashes of fresh lines far longer than the open, more notorious slopes.
The soft, unconsolidated snow around the base of a tree acts as an open well, never quite filling in like the snowpack that builds around it. Instead, the large branches create an airy pocket around the trunk of the tree that can swallow a person.
Here’s a video, taken a week ago at Crystal by Jon Malmerg, in which a skier slips into a tree well. If the video takes a few minutes to download, give it time. You have to see this.
Our good friend, Paul Melby is still missing at Crystal Mountain, and we fear he fell into a tree well, just like the one depicted in this video. Tree wells are a bigger hazard than many skiers and riders realize. Please take the time to be careful, ski with a partner and always keep them in site–especially while skiing the trees.
For more information about tree wells, visit www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com.