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Whitefish Mountain Ski Patrol cautions skiers about tree wells

Posted at 2:55 PM, Jan 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-08 16:55:03-05

Quite a bit of snow has fallen across parts of Northwest Montana this week.

Whitefish Mountain Resort spokeswoman Riley Polumbus says at one point this week, they received 11" of snow in just 24 hours.

Ski patrol member Butte Soyland, who has kept Whitefish Mountain Resort ski runs safe for the past 24 years, says that while the powder is fun to ski in, skiers and boarders need to be extra careful of tree wells.

He says that at the base of trees an air pocket forms, creating a space between the bottom of a tree and the snow. When someone skis too close to the trees, it's possible to get sucked below the base of the tree.

Soyland told MTN News that once this happens, a person would start "drowning in the snow."

"You want to remain calm... you don't want to struggle too much,” advised Soyland. “It's a good idea to always have a whistle on your jacket. So if you were to go into that tree, you could blast that whistle and alert your partner."

Soyland also noted that January is National Safety Month and it's important to always ski with a partner.

“Hopefully you're using the buddy system where you have a partner that skiing with you, watching where you are and they will come to your aid," said Soyland.

Soyland stresses that people should never ski with wrist straps that come with most ski poles, around your wrist. He told MTN News that if you were to go into a tree well, these straps could get your arms and poles stuck in the snow, preventing you from reaching an arm out for help.

Click here for more on how to stay safe and avoid tree wells. The mountain will have a free tree well safety demo on Saturday, Jan. 11 by the T-bar.