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Old 12-28-2012, 05:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Got stuck in a tree well. (White Pass)

I went to White Pass yesterday the snow was great. It was on the main mountain not Paradise Basin, I came down the main catwalk and took it to the 3 Chair( there is a pack of trees to the way right off the top of the 3 chair) I went through there and was going too fast for being the last run of the day. I lost control and ended up in the tree well and sunk about 4 ft right away (I'm 5 ft 7 inches.) one end of my board was up against the tree and the other was in 4 ft of snow. I unstrapped my left binding and tried to push up against the tree to get my right leg free. That ended up twisting my knee under the pressure of the snow and I sunk in the snow, now the snow was at the bottom of my neck, and my knee is still twisted. I dug the snow out by my right leg I could barely see my right foot. Luckily there was a few roots in hands reach so I could pull myself out. Which I could barley do since I was exhausted from digging my foot out. It felt like the snow was pulling me down I didn't have any foot holes or anything. The things that were going through my mind were “the lift is about 150ft away so I could yell for help If necessary”, “ Well if I get out of here this is gonna put a dent in my ski season”. It was frightening having that happen. People suffocate in tree wells all the time and I was lucky to make it out with a busted up knee and a pulled hammy.

Last edited by Chris; 12-28-2012 at 05:17 PM.
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Old 12-28-2012, 05:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Dang, glad you didn't go in head first.

Tree wells freak me out. I love riding powder and like riding trees. One fall in the wrong spot and you can be buried.

It's important to ride with someone and keep and eye on each other, but it can be hard when you get your powder stoke on and you start tearing down the hill.
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Old 12-28-2012, 05:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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well, you did the right thing - the key is generally to get your feet out of your bindings and then just wallow your way out.

everyone keep in mind that in an avalanche burial you typically have about 15 minutes of air, and that snow is compacted like concrete. in a treewell, even headfirst - you have time. stay calm and get out of your bindings.

if you said the words "last run" then that is almost surely why this happened. don't even say it to yourself in your mind - tell yourself "well self, lets take a run and we'll see how we feel at the bottom".

NEVER say last run.
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Old 12-28-2012, 08:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I've started rigging my bindings with a cord for quick release pull in cases of avy and wells...its damm hard to get released at times; and generally easier to pop out of at the chair. Glad ur ok. Last Sat. I was boarding and trying to get a little pow stash and got a little too close to a tree well and at the last second I kind of ollied and dove around the well...otherwise would have gone right in to one.
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Old 12-28-2012, 08:38 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by wrathfuldeity View Post
I've started rigging my bindings with a cord for quick release pull in cases of avy and wells...its damm hard to get released at times; and generally easier to pop out of at the chair. Glad ur ok. Last Sat. I was boarding and trying to get a little pow stash and got a little too close to a tree well and at the last second I kind of ollied and dove around the well...otherwise would have gone right in to one.
I would like to see a photo of this rig your talking about. Thanks in advance.
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Old 12-29-2012, 11:46 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Star Wars Trees at White Pass is a good place to find wells. Last year, NWBoarder and I were riding Star Wars and he was only 4-6 inches to the right of my path and he went feet first (thankfully) into a deep well that was well over his head and he`s 6 foot. One minute, he`s right on my tail and the next he has vanished like the Star Trek transporter got him. I stopped not 50 feet from him and could not see any sign of him and had to find him be voice. Took us damn near a half hour of digging from the downhill side to get him out. Had this been a head first entry, it could have been very serious.

It may not be as fun or exciting, but the only safe way to ride tight trees when there is danger of tree wells is to leap frog your way through them. One guy stops, and maintains constant visual contact on the rider as he rides down from above and passes below. He then stops, and the spotter gets his turn. If you are all riding together, if the guy behind goes in, you will be easliy 50 yards down the mountain or more before you have a clue the guy is missing. If its a head first entry, good luck ever finding the guy!

Its not enough to just ride with a buddy when tree well danger is significant, you have to be in constant visual contact. We got lucky that day; lesson learned!
Star war trees haha what are those? Yea other than being stuck in a tree well it was a good day. The snow was a light powder. I probably wouldn't have gone through the trees but there was a ton of unridden powder and if you go up to Paradise basin around lunch time(10:30- 12) you can get tons of runs in. I usually ride down to that slow chairlift(one before the lift that goes to the top of paradise basin) bring up a thermos of homemade turkey chili, or some PB&Js' and have lunch there. When all the people come back from lunch just depending on the crowd either stay there or go to the main mountain.
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Old 12-29-2012, 12:58 PM   #7 (permalink)
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The tree wells out here in the PNW are no joke. I was super fortunate that Snowolf stopped and could hear me, and that I went in feet first. The thing is, there was NO way to know that the snow was going to give out and drop into a well. The trees we were in were tight, but the snow seemed good. Then all of sudden, it just dropped out from under me and I was shoulder deep in a well. After trying to dig myself out, I ended up literaly being in over my head. Thankfully Snowolf was there to help me dig out. I would have spent a very long and cold night out there otherwise, as it was closing time and I was STUCK.

Snowolf hit it on the money with the leapfrogging. While it's fun to blast through with your buddies, if deep snow and tree wells are a major concern (which they should be right now in the PNW), then one at a time while keeping an eye on your buddy is the best way to ride. And Chris, if you can't find the Star Wars trees on your own, then you better just ride White Pass some more until you do.
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Old 12-29-2012, 07:39 PM   #8 (permalink)
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The tree wells out here in the PNW are no joke. I was super fortunate that Snowolf stopped and could hear me, and that I went in feet first. The thing is, there was NO way to know that the snow was going to give out and drop into a well. The trees we were in were tight, but the snow seemed good. Then all of sudden, it just dropped out from under me and I was shoulder deep in a well. After trying to dig myself out, I ended up literaly being in over my head. Thankfully Snowolf was there to help me dig out. I would have spent a very long and cold night out there otherwise, as it was closing time and I was STUCK.

Snowolf hit it on the money with the leapfrogging. While it's fun to blast through with your buddies, if deep snow and tree wells are a major concern (which they should be right now in the PNW), then one at a time while keeping an eye on your buddy is the best way to ride. And Chris, if you can't find the Star Wars trees on your own, then you better just ride White Pass some more until you do.
After riding white pass for 9 years or so I have came to the conclusion that people have different names for every run. I believe you are talking about what I call disneyland ( the path that goes off the cat walk from the back side where the 2 chair is.)
Or your talking about that run that ends up on the catwalk that is from the marked run "Cascade"

Last edited by Chris; 12-29-2012 at 07:42 PM.
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Old 12-29-2012, 09:08 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Are there any signs to look for that trees may have wells? I do a fair bit of riding through trees and plenty of times alone but never really been aware of the dangers of tree wells. In Australia it isn't something discussed as rarely get such deep amounts of snow and most alpine trees a small in oz. Siberia is a different story though so would love to get more info on this topic.
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Old 12-29-2012, 09:27 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Are there any signs to look for that trees may have wells? I do a fair bit of riding through trees and plenty of times alone but never really been aware of the dangers of tree wells. In Australia it isn't something discussed as rarely get such deep amounts of snow and most alpine trees a small in oz. Siberia is a different story though so would love to get more info on this topic.
Come over to the PNW we'll show you some wells. I can't really imagine riding any other place besides the PNW. I don't know about where you ride but here you have to be cautious when riding through trees pretty much all of them have some sort of hole around them because only the top of the trees stick out and the snow is packed lightly which make it easy to fall through.
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