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Snowboarder Dies in Tree Well Incident at Whitefish Mountain Resort
Second tree well fatality this ski season
A 29-year-old snowboarder died after falling into a tree well Saturday at Whitefish Mountain Resort, marking the second such fatal accident this ski season.

The victim, Scott Allen Meyer of Kalispell, worked as a probation and parole officer for the state of Montana, according to the Flathead County Sheriff's Office.

Resort spokesman Donnie Clapp said Meyer was found buried in a tree well in an off-piste area near the T-Bar 2 lift.

Clapp says he was reported missing about 5 p.m., and was found in the tree well at 7:45 p.m.

Meyer was last seen between 1:30 and 2 p.m., according to Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry. He had been snowboarding alone but was at the resort with friends, who were unable to locate or contact him.

The Big Mountain Ski Patrol organized a search with their patrollers while North Valley Search and Rescue, Flathead County Search and Rescue, Flathead Nordic Ski Patrol, Flathead Mountain Rescue Team and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office responded.

The missing snowboarder had last been seen at the top of the T-Bar 2 lift, so search efforts began there, Clapp said. He was found unconscious in a tree well to the south side of the lift.

Rescuers initiated resuscitation efforts and Meyer was transported to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Deputy Coroner Jordan White is investigating the accident, Curry said. Initial findings show that the victim had been wearing appropriate safety equipment.

Whitefish Mountain Resort reported 10 inches of new snow overnight, 30 inches in the previous five days, and a settled snow depth of 86 inches at the summit on Jan. 8. The 10:30 a.m. snow report listed a temperature of 19 degrees at the summit, calm with clear skies and good visibility, Clapp said.

On Dec. 29, 16-year-old German exchange student Niclas Waeschle was discovered unconscious in a tree well in an off-piste area near the T-Bar 2 surface lift. He died on Jan. 2 after being taken off life support.

A tree well is a potentially deep pocket of loose snow that forms beneath the overhanging branches of evergreen trees as snow levels rise in the area surrounding the tree.

Tree wells can trap skiers and snowboarders as they struggle to get out, according to information from a website put together in collaboration with the Northwest Avalanche Institute, Mount Baker Ski Area, Crystal Mountain and Dr. Robert Cadman, and can lead to suffocation.

If a person is trapped in a tree well, there is little hope of getting out without the help of someone else. The odds of surviving these situations alone are often low.

Also on Jan. 8, Clapp said ski area employees found a 68-year-old man unconscious in the middle of a ski run at about 1 p.m. and started CPR.

He was taken to North Valley Hospital in Whitefish and was pronounced dead. His name has not yet been released.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
On 01-09-11, Rena commented....
My thoughts, prayers, and condolences go to Scott’s parents. He was a wonderful young man and will be greatly missed by all who were blessed to know him. Rest in peace.
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