The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office says on Friday, both a skier and a snowboarder died on Mt Bachelor—after both had fallen into tree wells. The skier, 19-year-old Nicole Panet-Raymond of Eugene was found dead, buried at around 8:30 p.m. in about 6 feet of snow, 10 feet off the White Bark run near the Cloudchaser lift. The snowboarder, 24-year-old Alfonso Braun of Bend, was found by other skiers buried head first in about 6 feet of snow in the West Bowls area. Mt. Bachelor ski patrol performed CPR on Braun, who was pronounced dead by emergency medics waiting in the parking lot.
Both Panet-Raymond and Braun were skiing with friends, but became separated from their group.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and Mt. Bachelor urge mountain users to familiarize themselves with tree well and Snow Immersion Suffocation awareness. The website, deepsnowsafety.org, has tips for prevention, equipment and what to do if you’re trapped in a tree well.
The site recommends checking local snow conditions before you head to the slopes. Like most people who want to ride in the deep, dry powder, the site recommends giving tree wells a wide berth—look for open spaces between trees and not at the trees.
Skiers should remove their pole straps and both skiers and snowboarders should carry a cell phone with the resort’s emergency number. If you’re going way off piste, the site says you should carry a transceiver or beacon and other safety equipment like an Avalung, whistle, shovel and snow probes.
If you happen to fall into a tree well, the first thing to do is to get someone’s attention by yelling or blowing a whistle. If you become buried in snow, make a space around your face to protect your airway and resist the urge to struggle, which could dislodge snow into your face and bury you further in the snow.
If you're skiing in a group—especially in deep powder or low-light conditions—stop to regroup often.
According to the website, more than half of all who die in tree wells were with partners who did not see them go down. Many victims have died while their partners were waiting for them at the bottom of a lift. When you stop, if one of your group isn’t there quickly, assume they need help and call the resort’s emergency number. If someone goes into a tree well, the site says to immediately begin snow immersion rescue efforts by clearing the airway of the trapped person. It doesn’t recommend trying to pull the person out the way they fell in but instead determining where their head is and tunneling in from the side, making sure not to push more snow into the hole. Then continue expanding the tunnel until the person can be pulled from the tree well.