Tragedy reportedly struck in Steamboat Springs with the death of a skier on Saturday afternoon.
According to Unofficial Networks, Frank Maimone, 53 of Philadelphia, was found unconscious in a tree well and later pronounced deceased.
According to a report from the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the accident happened on a run named “Shadows,” which is a black diamond tree run. Based on the Steamboat Resort trail map, this run is located to the side of the Sundown Express lift.
A tree well is the space that’s found beneath the branches of a tree around the base of the trunk. The branches can block the snow from falling in this area in the same amount that falls in the surrounding space. This creates a hazard in the snow, as these holes can often be hidden by loose, but unpacked powder. When skiers or snowboarders attempt to glide over a tree well, they can fall in, often headfirst.
It can be very difficult for skiers and snowboarders to escape a tree well once caught. One report by the Northwest Avalanche Institute revealed that 90% of individuals trapped may not be able to rescue themselves. This can quickly result in suffocation.
It’s also worth mentioning that an estimated 82% of those that suffocate in snow terrain fall into the advanced-to-expert category, opposed to 18% of deaths that involve intermediate skiers. This is likely because tree-wells and deep powder tend to be more prevalent on more difficult terrain. In 13% of deaths, no equipment from the skier or snowboarder was visible from the surface. Whether or not equipment can be seen can be a factor in finding the stuck individual quickly.
Tree wells can become especially prevalent during periods of intense and heavy snow. In days surrounding the accident, Steamboat saw more than 3 feet of snow as a winter storm blew through the state.
This death followed a skier death that occurred at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Friday.
What to do if you’re caught in a tree-well:
– Try to get the attention of anyone that might be accompanying you by yelling
– Try to keep your head above the surface of the snow
– Try to keep your head above your feet
– Avoid struggling as staying calm will help you conserve air
– Protect your airway by digging out space around your face
– Try to access a phone to call for help
Editor’s Note: Here’s an article about why we’ve chosen to cover deaths and injuries that occur in Colorado’s outdoor recreation space.
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