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JayB

Tree Well Burial Video

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I kept thinking "That's a lot of effort just to retrieve the car keys."

Yeah that's why I always carry the keys.

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Sobering. I lost a good friend to a tree well at Baker a few years ago. Before his accident (he was an excellent skier who had skied from a young age), I thought that sort of thing just happened to folks who really didn't know what they were doing. Keep a close eye on your partners when tree skiing in the powder, it only takes a few minutes to die when you go all the way in like that.

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Is it just me or was that incredibly frustrating to watch? Three people basically stood there waiting for the guy to die while one person dug and one person held the guy's foot. I would assume they all had shovels, why exactly weren't they using them? The first person was at the scene within 15 seconds but no one started really digging until almost a minute and a half. I guess the person blowing the safety whistle had an important job to do though...

 

Then at the end the guy presents that as a success. I think the kid is alive because he's lucky. They got him out, but it took twice as long as it should have.

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Is it just me or was that incredibly frustrating to watch? Three people basically stood there waiting for the guy to die while one person dug and one person held the guy's foot. I would assume they all had shovels, why exactly weren't they using them?
I was thinking the exact same thing as I was watching it. There was plenty of room for the other people there to work at extricating the guy from different angles, not just from his feet.

 

"WTF are the rest of you assholes doing standing around with your thumbs up your asses!!!???"

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That is part of the reason everybody in the group needs a shovel. Some folks could be uncovering the victim while others help move/transfer snow further from the pit.

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Damn scary to watch for a number of reasons. But not a group I would want to ski with....unless you can hold your breath for 4 full minutes. Lucky indeed.

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I would assume they all had shovels, why exactly weren't they using them?

 

I would have assumed that too, but turns out at these cat ops, although everyone has a beacon, that is not the case for probe and shovel.

 

I think the kid is alive because he's lucky.

He's actually an adult with a family (although otherwise I agree with all your comments).

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I had the opportunity to experience sucking in a couple of wind-pipe loads full of snow along with a bit of limb immobilization and (very) partial burial a couple of days ago, and man - is that ever unpleasant. Feels like suffocating and drowning at the same time.

 

Landed, had the tips dive, and augured headfirst into some super-deep light snow. Legs were fully locked in (big powder skis are work very well as deadmen), arms were partially trapped, and my head was partially buried. By the time the first snow-plug in the windpipe melted out I was super-desperate to get a breath and took in another lungful. No fun.

 

The whole thing probably lasted all of about 40 seconds, but man was that unpleasant. Spent the rest of the day just basically using the avalung as a snorkel in the deep stuff. Might start using that sucker when I'm skiing deep pow in the trees even when I'm not all that concerned about avy risk cuz the suffo-drowning feeling sucks big-time.

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As far as I am concerned, you better know how to extricate yourself from a tree well, because of exactly the scenario above or worse. I've gone into more then a few of them and this is what I've learned. It really helps to ski with a partner in the trees, and to STAY TOGATHER. if he gets to far ahead and you disappear, he won't hike back up to look for you generally but wait it out, just not knowing whats up. Wear loose fitting clothing, nothing is worse then being in a hole and your clothes restrict you and keep you from being able to move like you need to. Tight clothes around your neck such as tight turtleneck and neck gaiter are the worst, you need to be free to crane your neck anywhich way and breath, I learned this the hard way. Don't panic, thats easy to say, but really you need to stay calm and SLOWLY pick your way out. Its not a avy where you are buried unde tons of snow but a situation where is you think it out and make yourself a breathing space, you should be able to sort it out. Generally if you can get out of your skis or board, you will be able to get yourself out. Its your skis and poles that buried in the snow that tie you down and keep you from moving. So maybe pole straps off in the trees? Just be super wary when the conditions warrant it and ski in control. It doesn't hurt to practice self rescue in a tree well with someone standing by even. Its the wierdest thing to be ripping on the snow one mintue and the next held under and barely able to breath or move the next. Be safe!

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Is it just me or was that incredibly frustrating to watch? Three people basically stood there waiting for the guy to die while one person dug and one person held the guy's foot. I would assume they all had shovels, why exactly weren't they using them?
I was thinking the exact same thing as I was watching it. There was plenty of room for the other people there to work at extricating the guy from different angles, not just from his feet.

 

"WTF are the rest of you assholes doing standing around with your thumbs up your asses!!!???"

 

That sad part is this is pretty typical of a situation like this. It usually goes like this....

- One person takes charge

- One person is a doctor who doesn't know what they are doing

- Another person is pretending to be a doctor because they thought about getting their EMT

- Everyone else puts their thumb in their butt instead of helping.

 

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Being a non-skier can someone explain to me what this is, how it happens, what to do if your the skier, what to watch out for, etc. I heard the one guy telling him not to move. Does moving bury you further? Danke.

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So maybe pole straps off in the trees?

I have become almost exclusively a tree skier and never ski with pole straps on. Years ago I nearly pulled an arm out of its socket when a pole basket got hung up in branches. That experience, coupled with knowing that I never want pole straps on if I'm caught in an avalanchee, taught me to become comfortable skiing without pole straps.

 

Tree wells are only a problem if you fall. If you are a good skier you won't fall if you are paying attention and skiing within your limits. Younger guys tend not to do this and therein lies the real problem. :)

 

Good advice above about not getting separated from your partner. Additionally, if you both understand the ramifications of being vertically separated then you will both try to stay roughly at the same elevation while descending. If one partner is 20 yards below the other and the follower falls in a tree well, it may take 15 minutes for the guy below to struggle back up through deep snow to help. How long can you hold your breath?

 

Extricating someone that is buried can be extremely difficult. I recall an instance a few years ago when a snowboarder expired when he fell in a hole around a lift pole. His friends and others immediatley set to work to dig him out, but were hindered by all the snow-packed brush that prevented shovels from making progress. It took them 15 minutes to get him out and unfortunately that was too long.

 

The hardest thing about being safe skiing in trees? Finding a good partner who is available to ski when you want to go.

 

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Everyone falls, I don't care how good you are or how well you are skiing "within your abilities". Seriously?

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ZimZam, it happens when you are skiing/boarding and ski into or wipe out and go into the air space void under a tree. Because of branches, brush, etc, the snow is not consolidated but when you fall in it, it all sometimes comes down on top of you, and as you stuggle you go in deeper, and the snow packs down on top of you. When the snow is deep its very hard to get traction to move and that makes it even worse, and you can suffocate just like being in a avalanche floudering around in a foot of snow but unable to get your head above water.

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or like the baby that falls into the 5 gallon bucket with a splash of water at the bottom. no fun. drowning fucking sucks. I had a near miss whitewater kayaking, it's a experience I never want to have to go through again.

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Everyone falls, I don't care how good you are or how well you are skiing "within your abilities". Seriously?

Seriously. :)

I think you know what I mean. Perhaps "within your abilities" is the wrong choice of words. Maybe "in control" or "dialed back" would be a better choice of words.

I ski with my son and his friends and they are constantly pushing their limit and they fall a lot. I no longer push things. I am just out to have fun. Consequently I very rarely fall. This is true of my ski buddies as well.

 

The point I was trying to make is that tree wells don't come up and swallow you. You have some control over the situation. You have to fall first and then happen to fall into one. They are to be respected, but not feared. So if you are careful when you are skiing in the trees you won't fall in one.

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Maybe, or one of those two times a season when you fall tree skiing could kill you. I used to think along your lines, but I have lost too many experienced friends in the mountains to think otherwise. You can stack the odds in your favor, and think you are doing everything "right", but there are always odds.

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Yes, that is true. I'll ski by myself above timberline, but always with a buddy in the trees.

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I had a near miss whitewater kayaking, it's a experience I never want to have to go through again.
Same here. Class V on the Guadalupe. Scared the shit out of me, but I didn't get religion over it. But I did become a nicer person for it. The guy a week after me wasn't as lucky...

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I had a near miss whitewater kayaking, it's a experience I never want to have to go through again.
Same here. Class V on the Guadalupe. Scared the shit out of me, but I didn't get religion over it. But I did become a nicer person for it. The guy a week after me wasn't as lucky...

 

flush drowning or pin? either sucks, but I imagine a flush scenario would be semi infuriating. as things start to grey out thoughts turn from anger to just sorrowful remorse, at least they did for me.

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Washing machine on spin cycle. Folks said they saw me go around about 5 or 6 times. I'd catch a breath in the bubbles as I would come around each time and could see it getting lighter. The last time I came up, I was pretty banged up and tired, and I breathed in water. Went straight to the bottom and hit some roots. Don't ask me how I figured this out with two lungs full of water, but I drug myself along the bottom just far enough to escape the hydraulic, and got spat out and surfaced. A bunch of tourons were standing on the rocks looking at me expecting me to be dead. All I could do was "woof" out water - couldn't even swim. No one was prepared with a rope or anything. It was my boating buddy Jake who had successfully made the drop in front of me that pulled my ass to shore. He paddled back upstream when he didn't see me behind him. If I had been caught again by the hydraulic, I would surely have drowned. The week after my dunking, a guy went in at the same place, but he got swept under the undercut rocks beneath the falls, was trapped by the falling water, and never came out. Scuba guys pulled him out a couple days later. I got lucky, he didn't...

 

And I had a similar remorseful feeling as you. Although my life didn't "flash before my eyes", what I did "see" after that last gulp was all of the shitty things I'd done to people that I'd lied to, stolen from, or cheated over the years. And I was only 21! Like I said, although I didn't "get religion" because of the experience, I did get enough motivation to become a better person for it. I never want to drown...

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