Snow Immersion Suffocation
A tree well/snow immersion suffocation accident can happen when a skier or snowboarder falls into a tree well or deep loose snow and becomes immobilized. Without immediate help from your partner, you may suffocate.
Prevention of falling into a tree well or areas of deep snow is all-important:
A tree well is a void or depression that forms around the base of a tree, that can be hidden from view by the tree's low hanging branches. However, you can easily identify and avoid these areas.
Deep snow Tree Well/SIS accidents occur in areas of deep snow, deep snow pockets or terrain that concentrates deep snow such as steep drops, and creek beds.
The risk of a Tree Well/ SIS accident is greatly reduced just by staying on groomed runs.
If you have a tree well/SIS incident:
- Yell or use whistle to get your partners attention.
- Do whatever you can to keep your head above the surface of the snow.
- If you become immersed, make a space around your face and protect your airway – resist the urge to struggle.
- Stay calm to conserve air.
- Trust your partner is on their way.
- If possible, use your cell phone to call ski patrol or the resort's emergency number.
IF your partner has a tree well/SIS incident:
- Don't leave to get help – Stay with your partner!
- Call for additional resources.
- Evaluate scene safety for yourself.
- IMMEDIATELY begin snow immersion rescue efforts.
- Go directly for the airway, and keep it clear, be careful not to knock more snow into the hole. Clear any snow from the air way and continue necessary first aid or extrication efforts
- Do not try to pull victim out the way they fell in. Instead, determine where the head is and tunnel in from the side.