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Man dies while skiing in Whistler backcountry

Last Updated Dec 31, 2020 at 10:05 pm PDT

Brandywine Mountain (Courtesy mountain-forecast.com)

Crews were called to Brandywine Bowl after a skier fell into a tree well

There have been three fatalities in the Sea-to-Sky backcountry this week

WHISTLER (NEWS 1130) — A man in his 30s has died after falling into a tree-well while skiing in the backcountry near Whistler, according to police.

Paramedics and Whistler Search and Rescue were called to the Brandywine Bowl skiing and snowmobiling area around 4:45 p.m. Thursday.

“Police were able to determine the preliminary details where a man was backcountry skiing with a group and had fallen into a tree-well. BC Ambulance and Whistler Search and Rescue were initially called to assist but unfortunately, the male in his early 30’s did not survive,” reads a release from Squamish RCMP.

Tree wells are as dangerous as avalanches, although not as many people are aware of them, according to a post on the website for Whistler-Blackcomb. 

“A tree well forms when snow accumulates around the base of a tree, but not under the lower branches or around the trunk. This results in a hole forming around the base of the tree, which gets progressively deeper as the snowpack height increases. Often times, a skier will fall and wind up headfirst down a tree well,” the site reads.

“If there is snow on the tree branches, the skier’s fall and contact with the tree will often cause the snow to fall down on top of the skier and bury them in the hole. This snow, much like an avalanche, can trap the skier and leave them without fresh air to breathe, thus leading to suffocation.”

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Sgt. Sascha Banks points out there have been three backcountry fatalities in the Sea-to-Sky backcountry this week. Two snow bikers were found dead on Tuesday after an avalanche in Pemberton Monday.

“This is the third backcountry death in the Sea to Sky this week with an additional number of near-misses” stated Sergeant Sascha Banks. “It appears this current incident, as with the one on Monday, the group had all the knowledge, skills, equipment, and receivers necessary. If these unfortunate events can happen to the most experienced this can happen to anyone,” she writes in a release.

“Our thoughts are with the family, friends, and responders and we are asking those who come to our area to adventure do so with the utmost safety in mind.”

The BC Coroners Service has been called in to investigate, and anyone with information who has not yet spoken to Whistler RCMP is being asked to call 604-932-3044.