Snowboarder dies in tree-well accident

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A 28-year-old man died in a snowboarding accident Saturday at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Scott Robert Hornstra, of Alberta, died after falling in a tree well, according to Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry. A tree well is an open pit at the base of an evergreen tree that grows deeper as the snowpack around the tree rises.

It was one of two separate incidents on Saturday involving the death of snowboarders. Another man died near Blacktail Mountain.

The Alberta man had been snowboarding with friends in the Sling Shot area of Hellroaring Basin, within resort boundaries, when they became separated from him.

A search was initiated by Whitefish Mountain Resort Ski Patrol, Flathead Search and Rescue, and the Two Bear Air rescue helicopter. Searchers from Flathead County Search and Rescue located the victim about 2 a.m. Sunday.

The man was found upside down in a tree well and was pronounced dead on the scene.

Whitefish Mountain Resort has a list of tree-well safety tips and guidelines on its website at www.skiwhitefish.com and has signs around the ski area warning of tree-well danger. According to the resort’s guidelines, skiers are advised to avoid deep snow and trees and to ski with a partner.

Two tree-well fatalities occurred on the slopes at Whitefish Mountain Resort during the 2013-14 ski season. Previous tree-well deaths on Big Mountain occurred in 1978, 1979, 1990, 2010 and 2011.

A second man died Saturday in an incident that occurred on Blacktail Road in Lakeside, out of bounds and some distance from the ski resort.

Conner Heidegger, 22, of Rollins was reportedly snowboarding with a friend when he intentionally attempted a jump off a cliff.

He was pronounced dead on the scene from blunt force trauma, according to Curry. His body was recovered Saturday afternoon by volunteers from Flathead Search and Rescue, Somers Lakeside Fire Department and Blacktail Ski Patrol.

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