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Mt. Bachelor sets snowfall record, stresses safety amid ‘extreme’ tree well danger

(Updated: adding video, comments from riders)

Mt. Bachelor warns of 'extreme tree well danger' after heavy snowfall, in wake of skier's death

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – In a month's time, Mount Bachelor has gone from having no snow on the ground to setting a record for the most snowfall in a few days, thus raising the danger from tree wells in the wake of a recent skier's death.

The resort said it has received nearly five feet (58 inches) in the past 72 hours, including nearly a foot overnight, and “the winds continue to howl.” Mt. Bachelor’s morning update stated said the wind and conditions will dictate how many lifts can open. Higher-elevation lifts have been closed for several days due to the winds. Parking lots also were reaching capacity due to the amount of snow piled up there.

"It's really nice for actually being at the mountain, but I think my car is just completely stuck in the parking lot," snowboarder Kian Knight said Wednesday.

Less than a week after a skier fell into a tree well and died at Mt. Bachelor, the resort was warning visitors Wednesday that new, deep snow had created “extreme tree well danger,” calling it “mandatory” that skiers and boarders pair up while strongly urging them to not ski off-trail.

Tree wells, limited visibility and driving to the mountain are all heightened risks.

"I think people sometimes forget when they come to Mount Bachelor -- this isn't Disneyland," said Betsy Norsen, director of mountain operations. "This is a mountain, with wind and snow and elements and trees and so many factors that you have to take into play."

While Mt. Bachelor routinely sends out safety tips, staying safe ultimately comes down to the skier and snowboarder.

"Skier responsibility is paramount," said Leigh Capozzi, brand and marketing director for Mt. Bachelor.

"We do everything we can to communicate through our website, through our app, through our ambassadors, through our ticketing agents, through patrol, our lift agents," she said. "There are all these various touchpoints, but skier responsibility is also really important, particularly in these storm cycles."

Nate Plante, a snowboarder from Southern Oregon, says he considers himself a good snowboarder, but found himself in trouble.

"I ended up in two tree wells, and I was pretty stuck. Luckily my friends were there," Plante said. "Honestly, it was pretty scary."

Capozzi says mountain readiness starts at home.

Having the right gear, pairing up, charging your phone, knowing the terrain, and having a plan for your trip are all ways to stay safe.

The “deep snow safety alert” urged skiers and boarders to view a video on their website regarding tree well safety and to “always ski and ride with a buddy when venturing off trails!”

Experienced mountaineer Birkan Uzun, a native of Cyprus, died after falling into a tree well last Friday. It was the fifth such death at Mt. Bachelor in the past 20 years.

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Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.

Comments

41 Comments

  1. In other words or to simplify it for the masses….Warning, Skiing can be a dangerous sport. Don’t be a dumb***s, but if you are, take personal responsibility.

  2. The snow was bottomless duff today and you only sunk in a few inches. The tree well danger is much less than last week when we had 60 inches of blower powder at 5-6% water content. This stuff is much thicker and tree well dangers have decreased tremendously.

    1. Asked Leigh Capozzi, she kindly responded:
      “Safety is our #1 priority. With a 360 skiable volcano and many aspects that are affected by wind, snow, snow drifts, guests may experience a range of conditions pending where they are skiing / riding. As an example, if a guest is skiing Red Chair in West Village or Sunrise lift in Sunrise that will impact their feedback on conditions. While it’s great for the news to get a guest’s perspective it’s important to keep this in mind.

      “With the tremendous amount of snow we have received, which is now shifting to higher moisture content than the light, dry snow we had for a few storm cycles conditions, snow conditions are evolving. That said, tree well danger is extreme and we will continue to advise guests as we expand terrain through this next storm cycle and into the high pressure coming this weekend.”

      1. There is no more tree well danger now. It rained on top of wet snow and tonight it’s going to freeze. I’m not a guest, I have been observing the snowpack of the Cascades for a long time.

  3. A little bit too late for our Cypriot visitor. This warning should go out to everyone that buys a ski pass or ticket regardless of current conditions. Maybe even signs posted at the entrance to ski lifts. Always a hazard.

    1. As the woman said ‘Mt. Bachelor is not Disneyland.’ Tree wells are not limited to only Mt. Bachelor. And if you’re going to do something with danger involved, shouldn’t you be well aware of what the hazards are without having to have signs plastered everywhere?

      1. I tried saying the same thing on here with a little different wording and it wasn’t acceptable! I’m glad that someone was able to state the obvious!!

  4. “In a month’s time, Mount Bachelor has gone from having no snow on the ground to setting a record for the most snowfall. The resort said it has received nearly five feet (58 inches) in the past 72 hours, including nearly a foot overnight,” I am not exactly clear on what the record is. It sounds like a record for the month of December but then the numbers after that happened in January. The way it is worded you could insert many things like the most snow in…72 hours or? I thought I read elsewhere that the snowpack is at 104 percent of normal so that does not sound like enough to be a record for December.

  5. I was there on a monday morning in 93 when they got 48” in just over 48 hours.That was a epic day no lift lines and skiing untracked powder days

    1. Congrats, that was a long time ago. C’mon back to living in the present. It’s never gonna be like it was and your life will be a lot better if your stop wishing it was still ’93.

    1. So many epics… riding blind thru the first bowls to the left of NW then floating down thru the trees, then teaming up with other riders to pound a trail thru the bottom part of getback down to the chairlift. Literally the luckiest people on Earth.

      1. That’s one of the great things about climate change. No matter what happens with the weather, climate change is what is responsible. Ever heard of the great dust bowl of the 1930s? Or the great Wyoming blizzard back then as well? Both were far worse than anything we have seen of late. There have always been extremes in weather. We just didn’t have so many so-called scientists whose funding relied on making things sound like we are at the end of days.

  6. This entire article feels like Mount Bachelor just trying to get in front of liability. Must be nice to reach out to your local news agency to protect you and shield you. It is Mt Bachelor’s responsibility to make their resort safe if they’re not gonna prevent beginners and unknowledgeable skiers from going into difficult terrain. Saftey is their responsibility not the skiers responsibility. Again Mount Bachelor only wants to make money not spend it a little bit of money would make their resort a lot safer but they’re choosing not to put up the cash they’re only choosing to charge fast passes and ever increasing lift ticket prices. MtDeathlor

    1. So should ODOT also put dividers on all highways so that people cannot get into head-on collisions? What about the ice on the paths you walk in the forest? Should there be handrails for you? Why not wear a helmet in your car as this could certainly prevent some injuries or deaths? If you have actually been on a mountain like Mt. Bachelor you would see that what you are demanding is impossible. You cannot eliminate all risks. Back east a skier was killed when a collision occurred between him and a snowboarder in the middle of an open area. Is that the resort’s fault?

        1. Mt. Bachelor does post warnings about tree wells all over. The trouble is some people think such things will never happen to them. While the recent death was indeed very sad. The fellow was well known to be a huge risk-taker. After all, he had a goal of summiting the seven tallest peaks. The odds of him completing that were not very good. He was aware of the hazards and took the chance, just as I do when I ski the trees. I try and be very cautious but have still ended up in a tree well once. Part of the thrill of doing extreme things is cheating death. I would never fly a wingsuit off a cliff, but I defend the right of others to do so if they wish.

          1. He had summitted 5 of the 7 peaks, reports say, so clearly he had some mountaineering knowledge.
            It’s the judgment of others that gets old. Especially in the wake of tragedy, when grieving family and friends might be looking for support and getting a sad, rude awakening to just how mean-spirited and insensitive some people can be, ya know?

            1. I was not criticizing him at all Barney, just as I hope people would not criticize me if it were to happen to me. To be a huge risk-taker is not something I am against. In fact, I endorse it. When I ski the trees around deep tree wells, I am more cautious but I still found myself in one a few years back. So I was not at all judging the fellow who was living life to the fullest. It is just a fact that people like myself are more at risk when we do things that are risky and that is part of the fun of it. That risk triggers things in the brain that can be very pleasurable.

              http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1869106,00.html

              When I was young and invincible, I flew hang gliders off some of the tallest mountains in New Mexico. Twice I came inches from certain death. I can remember those moments like they happened yesterday. If I was to have died doing that no one was to blame but me. Jumping off a thousand-foot cliff with nothing but a hang glider is not something you do if you want to ensure you live a long life. Neither is skiing through the trees when the trees wells are deep or conditions are not the best. But some of those moments I have experienced up at Mt. Bachelor have been some of the best times of my life. So please understand where I am coming from and my apologies to anyone who was offended.

  7. Tree well danger is virtually non-existent right now. Most of the other people that actually venture into the snow on here know this.

    It’s a constantly evolving situation in the winter, and requires experience, good judgement and some good ol fashioned testing on the day to know your conditions and understand the risks.

    1. Did you see Leigh Capozzi’s response shared here when someone else made same claim?
      “Safety is our #1 priority. With a 360 skiable volcano and many aspects that are affected by wind, snow, snow drifts, guests may experience a range of conditions pending where they are skiing / riding. As an example, if a guest is skiing Red Chair in West Village or Sunrise lift in Sunrise that will impact their feedback on conditions. While it’s great for the news to get a guest’s perspective it’s important to keep this in mind.

      “With the tremendous amount of snow we have received, which is now shifting to higher moisture content than the light, dry snow we had for a few storm cycles conditions, snow conditions are evolving. That said, tree well danger is extreme and we will continue to advise guests as we expand terrain through this next storm cycle and into the high pressure coming this weekend.”

    2. You forgot some facts indeed. You cannot say that all areas of Mt Bachelor are now free of tree well danger just because you skied or rode through the areas that were open the last few days. Mt. Bachelor is a big mountain and one area can have entirely different conditions than another. I have seen one side covered in ice and the other covered in soft pow on the same day. So I think that the statements from those who work at Mt. Bachelor are quite wise. If they were to make a statement such as you just made then they would be liable for any injury or death from a tree well incident.

  8. It was deep and dangerous. Saw lots of snowboarders digging out. It was a good lesson for my kids to see these dangers. Sad to hear about the death. You are incharge or your own safety out there.

    Your next story should be about the skyliner lift fiasco. Did the test it prior to season? Will season pass holders receive a refund? Why are the selling full price passes when they are not fully operational?

    Investigative reporting please

  9. If it is truly the skiers responsibility for saftey. Then Mt Bachelor should be checking ability levels befor going into certain terrain. Other , much better, resorts require becons to access certain lifts. You can not let anyone go anywhere then blame them for not knowing.

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