Tree wells are a danger

Tree wells are a danger

Nelson man survives tree well

In just a matter of seconds, one Nelson man’s ski day turned into near death experience he’s not soon to forget.

In just a matter of seconds, one Nelson man’s ski day turned into near death experience he’s not soon to forget.

“I was just cruising along, not out of control or anything, and I caught something and saw snow near a tree and I launched forward and went head first into a tree well,” said Bernie Zimmer.

Skiing with his 26-year-old son, Zimmer was enjoying some fresh snow at Whitewater Ski Resort during the weekend of Coldsmoke Powder Fest.

“Just my legs were sticking out and my son came over right away and got my skis off and then started digging me out,” said Zimmer

“He saw me go in and his initial thoughts were ‘oh there goes Dad again,’ and not realizing the seriousness of it until he actually got to the tree well.”

“My initial thoughts were that it would be just a couple minutes and I’ll be out of here, but after about 10 minutes I didn’t really feel like it was any closer to getting out.”

Zimmer, 61, said his arms were pinned beside him leaving him no opportunity to better his situation and his son was having a difficult time trying to dig through the snow with just his hands.

“My son wasn’t able to pull me out on his own, it’s 180 pounds of dead-weight wedged straight up in snow…the snow is soft close to the tree but outside the tree well people have been skiing by and it’s pretty packed, it’s not easy to dig,” he said.

“As time passed I thought ‘gee I didn’t think it was going to end this way.’ I didn’t feel any closer to being out.”

Zimmer, the City of Nelson’s chief building inspector, said at one point he gained a little mobility in one of his hands, but not to the point where it was very effective.

“As I would move it snow would fall into my nostrils. I thought, the more I’m working at it, the more I might just dig myself in here deeper. It was quite scary,” said Zimmer, who has been skiing for 40 years.

He was in luck when a snowboarder came along.

“My son hollered him over and they were each able to grab one of my legs and yank me out of the tree well,” he said, adding that once he was out he had a pounding headache, he was spitting blood and was completely exhausted.

“I slowly made my way down to the cat track, got to the lift, took off my skis and I caught a ride back up to the lodge where my car was parked,” said Zimmer.

“My ski day was over.”

Zimmer said that as he looks back on the event, a few things that helped his situation.

“I try to ski with somebody… I think the helmet pushed a bit of snow away from my face as I went down… my son and I keep in fairly close vocal contact when we ski, if he was farther away the outcome could have been much different.”