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Tree Well Safety in Whistler
Whistler is an amazing playground for snowboarders but there are risks to this amazing adventure sport. The obvious ones are falling and breaking a bone or getting stuck in an avalanche however a tree well or SIS incident is potentially more dangerous.
Here’s some useful information on tree wells and tips to keep you safe while riding the mountain this season.
What is a tree well and why can it be dangerous?
A tree well is a void or depression that forms around a tree when snow accumulates around the base, but not under the lower branches or around the tree trunk. These voids are hidden from view by the tree’s low hanging branches and can get progressively deeper as the snowpack height increases. Tree wells are dangerous due to snow-immersion suffocation (SIS)
A rider or skier can fall head first in the tree well and if there is snow on the branches, a fall and contact with the tree will often cause the snow to fall down on top of the person burying them. Like an avalanche, a person can be trapped without fresh air to breathe, leading to suffocation (snow-immersion suffocation - SIS). The majority of SIS accidents happen during or just after big snow storms or storm cycles, the more fresh snow, the higher the risk.