(Update: Adding video, comments from Mt. Bachelor, Facebook posts)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — With the recent snowfall comes an extra hazard on the mountain, as skiers and snowboarders need to be on the lookout for dangerous, potentially deadly tree wells.
Mt. Bachelor Marketing and Communication Director Johnny Sereni said Tuesday the recent snowstorm has created hazardous tree wells on the slopes.
“In certain conditions, when snow is a certain way, it can increase the risk of snow or tree well immersion. Currently, we have those conditions,” Sereni said. “Because you’ve only got a short period of time, because it often leads to suffocation.”
The deep pockets of soft unstable snow form underneath a tree, and a person can suffocate if they fall in and get stuck.
When these conditions exist, Sereni said the resort informs of the dangers on its website on its Mountain Report and Safety Page, puts out signs and hands out fliers.
However, this week, some skiers reported running into tree wells.
In the Mt. Bachelor conditions Facebook group, Jordan Cundari posted a picture of himself in one.
He said he fell in feet-first, and fortunately he was able to get out okay.
Francesca McLean said she fell into a tree well backwards, head-first, with her face buried underneath nearly a foot of snow.
She credits a friend with pulling her out and saving her life.
Sereni and Mt. Bachelor recommends having a buddy when you’re on the slopes.
“If people do want to go off the path, then what we suggest is just make sure you’re with a buddy,” Sereni said. “Someone that’s of equal ability and can keep an eye on you and you watch them at all times.”
While not in a tree well, a snowboarder died last Saturday at Mt. Baker after riding alone in deep snow.
Over the years, some have not been so fortunate, and there have been deaths in tree wells on the mountain, one less than a year ago and as long ago as 2002, a young snowboarder, Kate Svitek, whose grieving parents created a foundation in her honor.
“We don’t have any data evidence that suggests there’s more or less in the industry anywhere around the country or around the world, because it is conditions-dependent,” Sereni said.
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