Found by and dug out by a skier that just happened to see him upside down in a tree well.
And this with Baker having a below average 527 inches of snow this year.
Only dumb luck let the kid live
Here's more of the story in the Seattle Times about the snowboarder who the skier dug out. They were backcountry skiing. The skier had a shovel but knew that getting started with digging out the guy's head was very important so started with his hands. The boarder had a radio and was skiing with friends, but they were below him when he fell into the tree well. He was not "a kid."
From a comment on the YouTube video posted last week:
"The guy in the tree well is my ski buddy's uncle. Has 30 years of boarding experience up at Baker, knows his shit but got unlucky. Tried to shoot those narrow trees hoping for an opening below but wound up taking a tumble in the wrong place. My friend was telling me that he was in there for about 5 minutes before this man saved his life. It is a miracle and an excellent example of the dangers of deep snow immersion and tree wells. Even if you know the mountain, are skiing with friends and are an expert rider, the mountain does not care and can humble you quickly."
Moe Gull wrote:
There has been a wave of these videos lately. I guess all of the snow out west this year is adding up and the tree wells are deep.
This story is a bit different because it became a piece on national TV News. It's not a story about a search or a fatality, but a documented story that the two men involved chose to share with the world. One is an experienced backcountry boarder who was at his home mountain and the other equally experienced backcountry skier who travels far and wide. The event happened on March 3, but the GoPro footage was not posted publicly until late March. The skier, Francis Zuber, is a professional photographer.
This is the full interview with the boarder that was done in order to do a piece for ABC News. It has the most detailed info as told by Ian Steger about what happened, including right after he was pulled from the tree well and in the weeks after the rescue.
For those who don't know what SIS stands for related to snow safety or what a "tree well" is in deep snow:
Tree wells are very scary. More so than avalanche potential IMO. They can be found in areas that don’t look hazardous at all. I was warned by my guide at Rogers Pass not to ski a slope with widely spaced small trees. He said those were not little trees, they were the tops of big trees with big tree wells below. It was April in a big snow year, like this one in the west.
Agree that the risk of getting too close to a tree well is more scary than avalanche danger, especially for a resort skier like myself. I review the info on the Deep Snow Safety website every season. I've improved enough in recent years to really enjoy deep powder in trees, so it's more relevant than before. However, I've also read about people who got in trouble in a tree well not that far from a groomer.
My only experience getting stuck near a tree was at Homewood in north Tahoe almost 15 years ago. It was the first day of my first mid-season adults-only trip after I started to ski more than groomers. My ski buddy was ahead of me. We'd taken that route before and he was making sure to keep up speed on the relatively flat cat track back to the lift. There was a few inches of fresh snow, so I was having a good time just going straight on the side of the groomer. Happened to look at a "tree" that was about 4 feet high as I was about to pass it. This happened before I knew much about skiing terrain with trees (look BETWEEN the trees). I ended up with my skis on either side of the tree top. No danger, but it took me a while to get untangled because I had to move very slowly or else I would sink deeper. Had to hold onto a branch while I figured out how to pop a binding. Then I carefully moved away from the tree to firmer snow. The memory is very clear.
Here's another real world tree well rescue that happened in 2011 in Canada. In this case, the man who fell into a tree well was in front of the man who noticed the problem and initiated the rescue. The skier in the tree well was clearly very scared. Other members of the group helped as well.
From the YouTube description:
"Point of clarification - This is real world stuff, raw and flawed. Everyone in this video is a recreational skier, an amateur in back country rescue. Even with a successful outcome, this rescue has mistakes and is not a representation of proper technique. The intent of this video is to demonstrate and educate people on the dangers of tree wells. NOT a demonstration on HOW to rescue someone from a tree well. "
Ive sunk in between two trees at 7Springs if you can believe that. It wasnt far and I was upright but I was waist deep. Just a hole with nothing in it. A fantasy today.
Out west, Ive never encountered a tree well. Just a big field of powder within the trees that I fell and couldnt get out of easily on a board. I had to take my board off to get out and could never get back on top of the powder to get back on so I crawled over to a groomer that was only about 40 feet away. By the time I got to the groomer some older lady handed me her pole to help me drag myself over to the groomer to take a break. That sucked. I had to take my coat/helmet off and lifted up my shirt to get cool. I was sweating so bad from that. I love riding the powder but most of the time it's all so tracked out, and the areas where you see fresh stuff you wonder to yourself why no one has been there.