Tree Well Safety

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

6 thoughts on “Tree Well Safety

  1. Jason

    Looks like that video is too popular for DropBox:
    Error (509)
    This account’s public links are generating too much traffic and have been temporarily disabled!
    You’ll probably just want to load the video up to YouTube, Vimeo, etc…


  2. Paul D.

    The video link is currently down, apparently DropBox doesn’t like how much traffic this post has generated. Any chance it could just be reposted to YouTube or some such? I’m anxious to see it, and to show my kids. Thanks!


  3. Steven Michalove

    Creeks present danger too: between Boondoggle and Fardoggle
    Last run of the day, and I took a wrong turn and ended up in a very tricky area with lots of deep holes due to water dripping in the creek area. My son helped get me down by lots of good advice and as soon as I skied by a deep hole and told him about it he landed in it. His ski’s kept him up and he was able to compact the snow around the opening and rotate out of it slowly. Very scary…. It makes a tree well look easy when you see the rocks at the bottom and nothing between you and the bottom….


  4. Mike in Tacoma

    Video of a California snowboarder falling into a tree well, captured by his helmet cam; and discussing the experience after his rescue. He got lucky — he was able to dig his cellphone out of his jacket, but evidently couldn’t push the buttons properly; but his wife just happened to call him, and he got her to call Ski Patrol.


  5. Nikelle–
    Thanks for your question. Sadly, there’s no update on Paul because we haven’t found him yet. The snowpack is still building, if you can believe it. We are waiting for the snow to melt down to the level it was when Paul went missing. Then we can start looking again. We still fear that he is in a deep tree well somewhere on the mountain. Unfortunately, we’ve scoured the entire ski area several times over, and the only likely answer is that he’s under all this snow. As soon as we have more information, we will post it.


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