We’ve all heard the saying “no friends on a powder day” before. There’s no waiting for your crew, no hanging around when there are fresh lines to be had. It’s every rider for themselves when the snow is dumping, and there’s absolutely no limit to what you can send, knowing that your landing is going to be one giant pillow and you can bail all you want.
While snowboarding in the trees is generally viewed as being safer than on an open face due to the lower risk of an avalanche, there’s another danger lurking in your ski resort that can be just as deadly: tree wells. This intense, now-viral video shows how one fortunate snowboarder was saved by one alert skier after getting stuck on his own, head down in a tree well. Oh, and a warning, there’s some explicit language, so this is NSFW.
Tree wells form because the branches stop snow from falling around the base of the tree. This means you may have powder all around but a potentially deep gap around the trunk of a tree large enough to swallow up a person if they fall in the wrong place. The key difference between tree wells and avalanches is that ski patrol can’t really go around blowing out every tree well in the resort like they try to with avalanche-prone slopes. That’s right; you’re not safe from tree wells just because you stay in bounds. That said, by staying within the resort boundaries, you’re generally going to have more snowboarders around you who will spot you if you’re having problems. But you shouldn’t count on Lady Luck to pull you out of a situation like this; you should be prepared.
Well, for a start, it might be time to ditch the ‘no friends on a powder day’ mantra. I know, meeting at the end of the day and bragging over who had the best line is good and all, but not if one of your buddies can’t turn up because they’re stuck under a tree. This snowboarder was, apparently, riding with a group, but they had headed downhill and were nowhere to be seen. If you’re snowboarding in a group, stop regularly and check in with everyone. It never hurts to get out a few whoops and hollers while you’re ripping, too, so everyone knows where you are.
Perhaps the key thing that saved this guy’s life — other than the well-prepared skier — was his colorful board. Seriously, colorful snowboarding gear can save your life. If there’s only going to be a tiny tag hanging out of the snow, you’d much rather it was bright green than white, right?
Mainly though, this snowboarder was lucky. He was lucky the skier chose this line. He was lucky that the skier was prepared, had the right avalanche gear, and knew how to use it. If you’re heading out of bounds or even on a resort day with deep, fresh powder, it’s always worth carrying a transceiver, probe, and shovel. It might seem like overkill, but you never know when it might save your life, or in this case, that of an immensely fortunate snowboarder.
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