White Pass Tree Well Death Saturday

Sad news out of White Pass this weekend, Woman skier falls into tree well, suffocates on Saturday:

The woman, in her 20s, was an experienced skier and was skiing with a few friends on Saturday. Ski area general manager Kevin McCarthy said she was the last of the group to go down a run and fell headfirst into a tree well, where snow piled up around a tree. With no one around to pull her out, she suffocated.

The woman, KyOna Hoff, was an experience skier, Deep powder draws skiers, raises risks:

Experienced enough to have worked as a ski instructor at White Pass as recently as the winter of 2010-11, Hoff was skiing at the back of a small group of friends on the West Ridge, straddling the far reaches of the area’s Paradise Basin expansion.

She was well within the area’s boundaries, skiing through what Talbot described as “like a big clearing, with a lone tree.”

But a snowstorm over the previous 36 hours had dropped 27 inches of fresh powder, and as Hoff passed the tree, one or both skis caught the edge of the well and she was quickly trapped.

Sadly, this is at least the second tree well death in the Washington area this season, Tree Well Death at Stevens Pass January 22.

NWAC Report on Alpental Snowboarder Death

Just noticed that NWAC has the report for the snowboarder death in February at Alepntal, Alpental Ski Area Back Country – WAC Bluffs Avalanche Accident [pdf]:

Three snowboarders entered the 80s chute in the back country to the east of Alpental Ski Area, and triggered a slide. The slide caught two, one of whom was able to self arrest. The other boarder was carried over a steep cliffy chute and died from trauma.

Here’s the high level summary:

Time and Date: ~1145 AM PST, 2/19/2012

Submitted by: Aaron Opp (Snoqualmie Pass Professional Ski Patrol) and Mark Moore (NWAC)

Location: back country (beyond ski area boundary) on east end of WAC Bluffs in an area informally known as “80s chute”, just to east of top of Chair 1 at Alpental Ski Area. Alpental lies just NNW of Snoqualmie Pass, central WA Cascades, WA USA)

Slope specifics: starting zone elevation ~ 3800 ft., ENE exposure, 45+ degree slope

Fracture line details: SS-AR-O-R2-D2; Slab size and structure—approx. 1-2 ft deep (width unknown currently) soft slab (Fist to 4F hardness) presumably released to lower density layer above freezing rain
crust; initial avalanche likely triggered second slide on lower bench

Avalanche details: Slide caught two (of party of three), one of whom was able to self arrest; remaining victim carried about 400 vertical feet down a 45-60 degree cliffy chute

Fatalities / Injuries: Three snowboarders triggered slide–one not caught, one caught and able to self arrest, one caught and carried down through very steep ice and rock filled chute, and kille