Snow Safety | Palisades Tahoe
Get tips for deep snow safety, including tree well and avalanche information.
Skiing and snowboarding off the groomed runs and in deep powder is one of the most exciting and appealing parts of our sport. However, if you decide to leave the groomed trails, you are voluntarily accepting the risk of a deep snow immersion accident. A deep snow immersion accident, or tree well accident, occurs when a skier or rider falls into an area of deep, unconsolidated snow and becomes immobilized and suffocates. Deaths resulting from these kinds of accidents are referred to as a NARSID (Non-Avalanche Related Snow Immersion Deaths). Become educated on how to reduce the risk of NARSID through your own action and awareness.
It is extremely important to keep Snow Immersion Suffocation (SIS) safety at the forefront of your mind. Always remember:
- Ride with a partner
- Avoid the base of trees when skiing & riding in deep snow
- If you are going to fall, attempt to do so feet first
- The more snow, the higher the risk
The website www.deepsnowsafety.org is an excellent resource designed to assist all skiers and riders in educating themselves about the risks and prevention of deep snow and tree well immersion accidents.
Off-piste skiing/riding is extremely difficult and for experts only. Unmarked obstacles and hazards exist and should be expected. If you choose to ski/ride the ungroomed area, including glades and trees, please remember and follow these safety precautions:
Ski and Ride with a Partner
Hold your breath now as you are reading this. The amount of time until you need air is approximately how much time your partner has to help get you out of danger. It is critical to ski or ride with a partner who remains in visual contact at all times. In many cases, deaths due to tree well or deep snow immersion incidents could have been avoided if the victim had been with a partner who had visual contact. It does no good for your safety if you are under the snow and your partner is waiting for you at the bottom of the lift. Visual Contact means stopping and watching your partner descend at all times, then proceeding downhill while they watch you at all times. If you lose visual sight of your partner, they could lose their life.
- Know how to use, and carry, the same personal rescue gear as backcountry skiers or snowboarders: Transceiver, shovel, probe, whistle.
- Remove your pole straps before heading down a powder slope. Trapped skiers have difficulty removing the pole straps, which can hamper efforts to escape or clear an air space to breathe.
- Always wear a helmet.
What if I go down?
If you are sliding toward a tree well or a deep snow bank, do everything you can to avoid going down: grab branches, hug the tree, or anything to stay above the surface. If you go down, resist the urge to struggle violently. The more you struggle, the more snow will fall into the well from the branches and area around the well and compact around you. Instead of panicking, try first to make a breathing space around your face. Then move your body carefully in a rocking manner to hollow out the snow and give you space and air.
Hopefully, your partner will have seen what happened and will come to your rescue within minutes. If not, experts advise staying calm while waiting for assistance. Survival chances are improved if you maintain your air space. Over time, heat generated by your body, combined with your rocking motions, will compact the snow, and you may be able to work your way out.
While snow safety & avalanche mitigation efforts help reduce the risk of avalanches, avalanches and snow slides may occur at ski areas, both inside & outside of the posted boundaries. Avalanches are an inherent risk of the sport due to the nature of snow & its application on steep, mountainous terrain. Become educated on how to reduce the risk of injury or death from avalanches through your own actions & awareness. Visit avalanche.orgfor further information on the risks and prevention of avalanche-related injuries or death.
For avalanche safety awareness, watch this video provided by RECCO.