How to Get Out of a Tree Well When Skiing

There are many different obstacles you might encounter on the ski slopes. Tree wells are one of these, and they are all over the place, especially if you like to ski in the trees. You want to know how to get out of one, just in case you ever fall into it. 

I’ve been skiing for most of my life, and I’ve taken some nasty wipeouts over the years. I know through first-hand experience how to get out of a tree well, and I like to share this knowledge with other skiers to help them out of a jam. 

I’ll show you how to get out of a tree well when skiing in this post. My goal is to make sure you stay safe and get yourself out of a somewhat tricky situation. I’ll provide you with some tips and tricks to get back on your feet as quickly as possible. 

Let’s get after it. 

What is a Tree Well

For any readers who don’t know, a tree well is the area directly under and around the base of a tree. It’s called a well because the tree’s shape naturally blocks the snow from building up, creating a hollowed-out tubed area that resembles a well for water. 

These tree wells can get pretty deep, and it can be challenging to get out of one if you fall in upside down or are covered in snow. But it’s important to try and get out as quickly as possible, so you don’t risk getting stuck even worse or buried in snow. 

Tree wells are all over the place. If you see pine trees in the snow, there are tree wells beneath just about every one of them. They can exist in the backcountry and at the resort, so you need to be prepared, no matter where you like to ski. 

Skiers have died in tree wells. If you fall in and can’t get out and nobody knows where you are, your chances of surviving through the night are not very good. It’s always a good idea to ski with other people for this reason and many others. 

How to Get Out of a Tree Well

There isn’t one single method to get out of a tree well. Any way that ends up working is fine, so long as you get out of the underneath area of the tree and back out into open terrain where you can ski again.

Still, there are some tips you can use to get yourself out of a tree well as quickly as possible. 

Tip #1 – Get Yourself Upright

You can fall into a tree well in any way, but you always want to try and position yourself upright as quickly as possible. This will help you assess the situation and figure out how to escape. 

If you fall in on your feet, great. You can simply stand there and try to climb your way back out. You’ll probably want to take off your skis because this will make navigating around inside of the well a lot easier. 

If you fall in upside down, do whatever you can to get yourself upright. You can push with your hands or legs to reorient yourself into an upright position. There is no wrong way to do this, as long as you make it happen. 

Tip #2 – Use the Trunk and Branches for Help

After you get yourself upright, you can use the trunk and branches of the tree to pull yourself out of the well. This is much easier if you take off your skis and poles. Throw these up out of the well if you can, so they aren’t stuck in the bottom when you escape. 

Grab anything you can that is within your reach. It might be a branch, the trunk, or even another tree part that is near enough to grab ahold of. Whatever leverage you can find to lift up and out of the well will work. 

Tip #3 – Call for Help

If you can’t find anything to grab ahold of to pull yourself out of the well, you will want to start calling for help. Yell, scream, shout, whistle, and make whatever noise you can to catch the attention of another skier nearby. 

You can check your cell phone for service and try to make an emergency call. Or maybe your phone can make a loud noise to attract attention. Some skiers carry whistles for this situation, and it’s not a bad idea. 

Don’t panic, but don’t simply assume that someone is coming to the rescue if you just sit there quietly. If you can’t get out on your own, you need to make a lot of noise to find help quickly.

Tip #4 – Don’t Fall In One

Ok, this isn’t advice for getting out of a well, but if you can avoid falling into one in the first place, you won’t be in such a bad situation. Check out the video below for some tips on this. 

Final Thoughts

Getting caught in a tree well when skiing can be pretty terrifying, but it’s essential to try and stay calm. If you panic, you will burn more energy and make bad decisions. Take a few breaths to assess the situation and then spring into action. 

If you are skiing in the trees, always keep an eye out for other skiers who might have fallen into a tree well. If you think you hear cries for help, look around and don’t just shrug it off. You never know when you might be able to lend a hand.

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