What You Need to Know About Tree Wells

When skiers and snowboarders see snow falling, they rush to the mountains to enjoy powdery fun on the slopes and the Mammoth Bound team is right there with them.

However, after living and working near Mammoth Mountain we also know that heavy snow can bring danger. Even in a place like Mammoth where the maintenance crews are world-class, you need to be aware of deep snow dangers like tree wells, especially if you’re riding with inexperienced skiers and snowboarders.

To help, the Mammoth Bound team has created a quick guide to tree wells so you can avoid them and stay safe. Check it out below, then visit Mammoth Bound for the best deals on ski and snowboard rentals in Mammoth Lakes! 

What is a Tree Well?

A tree well forms when low-hanging tree branches prevent snow from condensing around the base of a tree.

Typically, when snow falls it eventually forms into a firm surface over time. However, in a tree well powdery snow mixes with branches and air so that it doesn’t condense. As more snow falls the well deepens without condensing.

Eventually, the tree well can be over 6 feet deep and if you ski too close or fall in then you can be unable to get out and suffocate underneath the powdery snow.

Where are Tree Wells?

Tree wells only form on ungroomed terrain where snow is allowed to fall and sit freely for long periods of time. For that reason, if you’re skiing on groomed runs then they won’t be a danger for you.

However, if you like to ride off-piste where there is no grooming then you need to be aware of tree wells. They form around trees with heavy low branches, like evergreen trees, in areas that have received heavy snow.

You don’t have to completely avoid skiing and snowboarding on tree runs, but you should give trees plenty of distance. Not only are collisions extremely dangerous, but spotting a tree well takes a trained eye, so give trees plenty of distance and stay in control while on a tree run.

If you can’t stay in control while skiing on ungroomed terrain, then you need to improve before you ride around trees.

What to Do if Stuck in a Tree Well

Being stuck in a tree well is extremely dangerous due to the risk of suffocation, so the first thing you need to do if you fall in one is try to keep your head above the snow.

Thrashing around in the snow could cause you to become stuck even further, so focus on keeping your head above the snow or digging around your head to create an air pocket.

You should always ride with an experienced partner when riding off-piste and keep that person in sight. If you’re the partner of someone who falls in a tree well then stay with them instead of going for help and clear snow from wherever the person’s head is without knocking in more snow on them so they can breathe.

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