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JERRY_SANCHEZ

Skier dies at Stevens Pass

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Skier dies at Stevens Pass

 

01:26 PM PST on Wednesday, January 18, 2006

KING5.com

 

STEVENS PASS, Wash. - A skier was killed at the Stevens Pass ski resort after falling into a tree well.

 

The man, who is from Kenmore, was in an out-of-bounds area Tuesday when he fell into the tree well. A friend dug him out, but he had stopped breathing, said Chelan County Sheriff Mike Harum.

 

The ski patrol took him to a parking lot and managed to briefly revive him but he died en route to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

 

Why tree wells are a hazard

 

According to KING 5 meteorologist and skier, Jeff Renner, the hazard is called NARSID, or Non-Avalanche Related Snow Immersion Death. It happens when skiers or snowboarders fall (usually headfirst) into a deep snowbank or tree wells. So far this season, three skiers/snowboarders have died and an experienced ski patroller had a narrow escape.

 

Skiers should stay well clear of tree wells.

Two of the deaths were at Mount Baker, the third was at Alpental.

 

Tree wells are cup-shaped depressions in the snow surrounding trees - the result of tree limbs catching and deflecting some of the falling snow. A fall near a well can easily result in a plunge into the well; even if the skier ends up going in feet first it can be very hard to extricate oneself. Still, the nature of such a fall is that victims often end up going in head first.

 

Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol Director Paul Baugher says that a study of the accidents suggests some basic safety steps: Any skier or snowboarder who ventures off to the side of a groomed trail into softer snow or trees should ski or ride with a partner, and partners should keep each other in sight.

 

Those who ski near trees should stay well clear of tree wells.

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It would seem that even if snowboarders stay together, it could be hard for one to aid the other if he happens to be even slightly downhill of the victim.

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I got caught in one of those at Crystal a couple of seasons ago. Scared the $#!+ out of me. I could have used some help. The more you flail in a tree well, the more you sink. Dem's scary.

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Even with skis on it can take what seems like forever to get back uphill to help someone. Sometimes the person is so buried you can't even see where they are and they can't shout for help. It took over a week and hundreds of people to find a buried snowboarder at Bachelor a few years back.

 

Really sucks to see this happen yet again.

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I recently started wearing an avalung. I figure the difference between even 20 and 30 minutes when your partner is furiously digging (hopefully) could make a big difference in whether you survive or not.

 

I wonder if getting caught in a tree well sucks more as a snowboarder since you are completely attached to the board??

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I fell in a well maybe 10 years ago snowboarding at ski acres. It was on a ski bus and I thought the bus would leave without me. I eventually was able to pop my bindings off and haul myself out. I was exhausted afterward and made it down just as they were finishing rolecall. I dont think skis or snowboards make a big difference. If you are below the faller, either way the board(s) is/are coming off and you are hiking up to find your friend. If you dont know where they are and they dont have a beacon, they are probably on their own. Not a bad idea to wear a beacon all the time if you have one.

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I wonder if getting caught in a tree well sucks more as a snowboarder since you are completely attached to the board??

That snowboard bindings aren't releasable in a fall and tether both of your legs together is thought to be one of the reasons for the higher number of boarder NARSIDS.

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I dont think skis or snowboards make a big difference. If you are below the faller, either way the board(s) is/are coming off and you are hiking up to find your friend.

 

Sounds like you've never put skis on, or else you'd know you can use them to side-step, or perhaps herringbone, uphill.

wave.gif

 

 

Also, whether you're the rescuer, or the victim trying to self-rescue, it helps to have ski poles in hand (as opposed to strapped to yer backpack).

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I dont think skis or snowboards make a big difference. If you are below the faller, either way the board(s) is/are coming off and you are hiking up to find your friend.

 

Sounds like you've never put skis on, or else you'd know you can use them to side-step, or perhaps herringbone, uphill.

wave.gif

 

 

Also, whether you're the rescuer, or the victim trying to self-rescue, it helps to have ski poles in hand (as opposed to strapped to yer backpack).

 

Its been a long time since I skied, but it seems that side stepping deep unconsolidated snow is still slower than popping out and walking. Maybe I've forgotten what its like in the last 12 years.

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Sometimes walking isn't a reasonable option either, especially in the kind of powder that makes tree wells extra deadly.

 

With Tele or AT gear, even without stopping to get skins on, you can get uphill reasonably well (free heels and light gear help). Split boards move well, how long does it take to convert back to the split format?

 

It can be hard to keep each other in view in the trees. Sometimes it pays to ride close together, when chance of avy is low.

Edited by Nick

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Wow, some of you are real self rightious sanctimonious and elitist. The poor bastard died and I am sure he was just unlucky. The report doesn't even say if he was snowboarding or skiing, what dif does it really make? There are so many variables including conditions, snow type, circumstances, terrain, time of the month, etc.

 

Why can't we all just get along?

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Wow, some of you are real self rightious sanctimonious and elitist. The poor bastard died and I am sure he was just unlucky. The report doesn't even say if he was snowboarding or skiing, what dif does it really make? There are so many variables including conditions, snow type, circumstances, terrain, time of the month, etc.

 

Why can't we all just get along?

 

I didn't read the above responses as elitist - just a rational response to a terrible tragedy that many of us have imagined, or come close to. I'm afraid that equipment, and other decisions, can make a difference as was pointed out, so boarders have to be even more careful.

 

I too found myself upside down in a deep well on an awesome powder day in the Stevens Pass backcountry some years ago when my goggles fogged up so much I couldn't see (a lesson learned and not repeated). My partners were waiting hundreds of feet below me and would have had a hell of a time finding me even if they climbed back up (which would have taken them a long time). If it wasn't for my ski poles and releasable rando bindings I doubt I could have extricated myself - even then it was a major effort to clear the snow away so I could breath and see what to do, get my safety straps undone (glad I did daily sit-ups), skis off (very awkward after the first one is released), then climb out of the damn thing and get my skis back on in chest deep snow. Scared the #$%^& out of me! I was a bit miffed that my partners were pissed off that they got cold waiting so long (they had never had a similar experience).

 

While avy danger is more obvious and discussed, tree wells can obviously be just as deadly, even in a controlled area. Be careful out there is what we are all saying.

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cj001f says: avalung + beacon AND NO FUCKING SNOWBOARDS!

#1 - Report indicates this was a skier.

 

#2 - KEEP THE FUCKING SKIS IN THE MOGUL FIELDS.

Edited by Eerie

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#1 - Report indicates this was a skier.

 

#2 - KEEP THE FUCKING SKIS IN THE MOGUL FIELDS.

 

The 2 who died at Baker this past week were both snowboarders.

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cj001f says: avalung + beacon AND NO FUCKING SNOWBOARDS!

#1 - Report indicates this was a skier.

 

#2 - KEEP THE FUCKING SKIS IN THE MOGUL FIELDS.

 

Keep the snowboards on the groomed runs and out of the backcountry then. Then we can all get along. wave.gif

 

Last time I checked it was skis that have been used since long before the modern era to traverse snow in the B/C and snowboards that remain akward, slow and inconvenient in the B/C.

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#2 - KEEP THE FUCKING SKIS IN THE MOGUL FIELDS.

 

yeah that's just great advice rolleyes.gif b/c we all spend all of our time skiing inbounds runs.

 

nice attitude.

 

i'm sorry for the family's loss. this sucks

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My condolences go out to the family who lost a loved one if they happen upon this website.

 

Last time I checked it was skis that have been used since long before the modern era to traverse snow in the B/C and snowboards that remain akward, slow and inconvenient in the B/C.

Don't you dare call my snowboard awkward or slow - myself, perhaps yes - but NOT my snowboard.

 

 

Ok, here's

#3 Yet again another pathetic attempt of skiers making themselves feel better about themselves.

fruit.gif

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Yet again another pathetic attempt of skiers making themselves feel better about themselves.

 

Bad monkey!!

 

NO BANANA!!! hellno3d.gif

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The out-of-bounds terrain to climber's right of Southern Cross Tuesday afternoon would have given every skier and every boarder I know pause. I went down it about half an hour before the guy for whom this thread is named went down. The first few hundred feet were deluxe, but after that, when I realized how deep the snow in the trees was, I was petrified. All I could think was, don't, don't, don't fall forward. I appreciate the debate over the relative merits of sliding technologies, but I think that at the time in question you would've been scared over there no matter what you were on.

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The snow is so thick and heavy now that every one should be uber carful. BC skis do not release any easier than boards and even a rondenee release would leaveyou at the bottom of a pit of wet cenment. Last weekend I could not even descent any thing less than 30 degrees and if you stoped you had to kick your way out.

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That's CRAZY scary.

I knew it was dangerous and tree-wells were a potential threat, but jeez.

Does anyone have any stats on yearly deaths because of this?

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