(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.