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Watch out for tree wells, AdventureSmart warns

Tips for staying safe on snow in 2021
outdoor adventure

After three backcountry deaths in the Sea to Sky in one week—and a number of near misses — BC AdventureSmart is reminding skiers and boarders to stay safe this winter.

AdventureSmart’s goal is to reduce the number and severity of search and rescue incidents by sharing its message of the three T’s: trip plan, train and take essentials, said executive director Sandra Riches, in a release.

“Though it is beautiful, the B.C. backcountry is remote and can be unpredictable,” she said.

“Severe weather, avalanches and tree wells are three of its primary hazards, so for any backcountry travel, you—and everyone in your group—must be self-sufficient.”

A tree well is the void or area of loose snow around the trunk of a tree surrounded by deep snow. The risk of encountering one is greatest during and immediately after a snowstorm.

To protect yourself from tree wells, steer clear of areas near tree trunks, close to low-hanging branches. Always be sure to ski with a buddy.

If you end up in a tree well, stay calm, and don’t panic; keep breathing; turn around slowly so you are facing upwards; grab hold of the tree trunk or branches and begin pulling yourself up.

“Ensure that you and your group also have proper backcountry awareness, skills, training, health decision making and avalanche training,” Riches said.

“No matter which backcountry sport you choose—skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or snowmobiling—always be thoroughly prepared before you head out.”

Find more backcountry safety tips at