A 54-year-old man who was skiing with his son at Whitefish Mountain Resort died Saturday after he fell into a tree well.
The son, realizing he was alone when he got to the bottom of the run, hiked up the mountain to look for his father, the Missoulian reported. When he retraced the route, he found his father’s skis sticking out from the area of loose snow surrounding a tree's trunk.
This is the third such death at the Montana resort since 2010, when a German exchange student fell into one of the voids while skiing on a groomed run. The student’s family filed suit against the ski area and their son's host family earlier this month. In 2011, a snowboarder took a fatal fall into a tree well at the resort.
According to a snow safety organization, most tree-well fatalities happen when a rider becomes immobilized in the snow and suffocates.
“The number one problem with a tree well hazard is that people just discount it,” say Paul Baugher, ski patrol director at Crystal Mountain. “You think, ‘Oh, that’s funny. Someone upside down in a tree well with skis sticking out.’ But this is a serious situation."