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Dangers of Tree Wells

The general manager of the Mount Ashland Ski Resort is sharing his message of safety after two people died last week on Mt. Bachelor. One skier and one snowboarder fell into tree wells and suffocated. NewsWatch 12's Eliana Sheriff found out why a little prevention can go a long way.

Posted: Mar. 5, 2018 10:57 PM
Updated: Mar. 5, 2018 11:19 PM

ASHLAND, Ore.-- Mt. Ashland General Manager Hiram Towle says, "Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families and employees at Mt. Bachelor."

Last Friday, tragedy struck on Mt. Bachelor, twice.
A snowboarder, and a skier, both in an expert area of the mountain, died from falling into tree wells.
According to authorities, both had also been separated from their friends.

Mt. Ashland General Manager Hiram Towle says, "Always ski with a partner, and really understand your responsibility to take care of yourself, even when you are on the front side of this mountain, where we patrol, groom, mark hazards, put up boundaries, there are still inherent dangers in this sport that people have to be aware of."

Dangers that Mt. Ashland is always trying to educate guests about before they hit the slopes.

Mt. Ashland General Manager Hiram Towle says, "You just can't message enough, we want people to be safe in the back country, safe in the trees, and it's a classic case of an ounce of prevention can be a pound of cure. The problem is people are out chasing powder, the lines people can take in the woods are limited, people try to get close to the trees trying to get that fresh line, we encourage people to stay as far away from the trees as you can."
Right now, Mt. Bachelor has 100 inches of snow in the base, that's almost three times as much as Mt. A.

Mt. Ashland General Manager Hiram Towle says, "When the snow falls it can't get on the ground and it falls on those branches, it's like a trap. When you get too close to that tree and in that tree well distance, oftentimes people go in and end up upside down."

Causing snow immersion suffocation and the situation is made worse when people panic.

Mt. Ashland General Manager Hiram Towle says, "They begin to struggle to get out and that can make it worse because that fall collapses all around you."

Eliana Sheriff says, "This season is nothing like last season in terms of snow pack. An event like this is highly unlikely on the mountain this year. The sign still reminds people to be aware of the hazards, don't ski near tree wells, and keep your partner in sight.”

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