What they didn’t know, was the high snowpack and heavy snowfall was the perfect stage for a silent killer. Lurking just beyond the ski run edge is a danger that few are fully aware of. It’s easy not to think about, because it can’t be seen, it’s a trap.
So what is this dangerous monster? Tree Wells. Really. Seems unlikely, but it’s true. Here’s what happens.
These voids can not be seen on the surface. In fact, skiers that fall in can be hidden by branches from above. Or snow higher up on the tree is knocked loose and covers the skier’s tracks or fills in the hole. Scary!
And once in a tree well, the clock starts ticking. People usually fall in head first. This inverted position increases the distance between their lungs and the air above, and makes it harder to escape. As snow fills in around the victim, breathing becomes difficult. This is known as Snow Immersion Suffocation, and can cause death as quickly as someone can drown in water.
Digging yourself out is a slim possibility. 90% of individuals buried in tree wells can not rescue themselves. Snow is surprisingly weighty and restricting. Skiing with a partner greatly improves of chance of survival for tree well victims.
Thankfully for the boy in this video, he had a partner. A great one. One that wasn’t waiting at the bottom in the lift line. One that knew which tree he had fallen into, and wasn’t frantically searching as time rushed on and life trickled away. He has a watchful father, on and off the slopes.
You may have seen this story. It went viral a couple of years ago. The moment of suspense truly arrives with the muffled sounds of the young boy screaming. Screaming desperately for air as he couldn’t make sense of what just happened, where he was and what was going to happen next.
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Try your best to locate and uncover the victim’s head first, the highest priority is the airway. The airway is the mouth, nose, and lungs. The airway needs to be clear and unobstructed to sustain life.
Instead digging down the length of the body, or trying to pull the person out against gravity, tunnel to where the head is. A shovel provides the most efficiency. After exposing the head and clearing the airway of snow, continue digging out the rest of the body. Begin CPR if they are not breathing.
Did you know about tree wells before this blog post? Leave a comment below.
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