Not that I blame them. People are tough on trees. We cut them down for lumber and paper. We clear them away for housing developments and strip malls. And we change the environment, creating conditions that can make it hard for them to grow.

But how well do we really know trees? I mean, look at them standing there, strong, tall, and silent.  Who knows what they’re really thinking? And even though this past Friday was Arbor Day, a day set aside for us to celebrate trees, maybe that’s not enough to keep them appeased. Maybe they’re actually plotting their revenge, luring us to ski among them and then taking us out with collisions or tree wells.

Ah, they’re wily devils, aren’t they?

So this Arbor Day week, I propose we fight back. Let’s step up, people, and show the trees we will not be defeated! Let’s take tree safety into our own hands.

By far, the best way to stay safe is to never ski in the trees alone. Always ski with a buddy, and always stay within sight of one another. If you lose visual contact, don’t ski on ahead. Regroup instead of meeting down at the lift.

Why? Because someone who falls into a tree well can drown as quickly as someone who’s submerged in water. Tree wells account for 20% of ski area fatalities. And 90% of  people involved in tree well research experiments were unable to rescue themselves.

So what can you do, if your ski buddy falls in? Here are some tips, from by way of unofficial

  • Stay with them. Don’t leave to get help. Instead…
  • Call for additional resources. Use a whistle or yell for assistance. If possible, call ski partol or the resort’s emergency phone number.
  • 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 airway 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. When tunneling directly for the airway be careful not to knock more snow into the hole. Continue expanding the tunnel to the airway until you can extricate the body. Efficient “strategic shoveling techniques”with multiple rescuers is very useful.

And what can you do for yourself, if somehow you fall into a tree well and you’re buddy’s not around?

  • Yell or use whistle to get your partner’s attention.
  • Do whatever you can to keep your head above the surface of the snow, including rolling, grabbing tree branches or the tree trunk. If possible, keep your feet below your head.
  • If you become immersed, make a space around your face and protect your airway – resist the urge to struggle, it could compromise your airspace and entrap you further.
  • 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.

Remember, there are more of them than there are of us. And they’re very, very patient…….

Be careful out there.