It's something you might not think about when you head to the slopes for your Colorado ski vacation. But a skier and a snowboarder have already died of suffocation this season at Steamboat, after getting caught in a tree well in the Morningside area of the resort.
The danger of tree wells is when the snow is unstable around the base of a tree trunk, because the branches are preventing the snow from filling in around the tree and creating snowpack around the trunk. One bad turn and you can land head first and get stuck. It's hard to tell if there is a tree well, because the branches often block the visibility of a hole. You should always assume a tree well is around every tree.
There are ways of avoiding this danger. Don't ski too close to the trees in deep snow or after heavy snowstorms. Never ski or ride alone. Always keep your partner in sight, and be close enough to pull or dig your partner out. Finally, be especially aware of your surroundings.