Canadian skier dies in tree well accident at resort

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Big Mountain as viewed from Whitefish. (Pilot file photo)

A Canadian man was found dead Friday afternoon after falling in a tree well near the summit while skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

The Flathead County Sheriff’s office on Monday identified the skier as Charles Douglas Herr, 56, of Calgary. The man had been skiing with a friend when they became separated.

The friend reported him missing, which prompted a two-hour search by Whitefish Mountain Resort Ski Patrol, which found his body buried in a tree well at about 3:15 p.m. in bounds of the resort.

This the second confirmed death at the resort this winter. The first was on New Year’s Even and was also a tree well incident.

A tree well is a void or depression that forms around the base of a tree and can contain a mix of low hanging branches, loose snow and air. These voids can be hidden from view by the tree’s low hanging branches.

Following the incident Friday, Whitefish Mountain Resort released a statement noting that the “accident is another unfortunate reminder that tree wells are an inherent risk of the sport.” The resort reminds skiers to take extra caution when skiing in the trees and deep snow, and also ski with a partner. Ski patrol should be notified immediately if someone is missing, the resort notes.

“Any death at our resort is a tragedy and felt deeply by the entire Whitefish Mountain Resort community,” the statement said. “We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends as they cope during this difficult time.”

For more information on tree well safety, the resort recommends visiting the website, http://deepsnowsafety.org/.

In separate incident Friday, a 30-year-old Canadian snowboarder was reported missing by friends after he was last seen inside the resort boundary near Chair 2 at about 6:30 p.m. A search by Flathead Search and Rescue, Nordic Ski Patrol and the Two Bear Air Rescue helicopter eventually located the snowboarder out of bounds of the resort shortly before midnight below the ski resort between Northern Lights Drive and Whitefish Lake.

The snowboarder had become lost in the dark and wound up below the lift, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The Two Bear helicopter returned the man to the resort.

Additionally, the search for Dr. Jon Torgerson continues as well after he went missing on Feb. 17. Torgerson, a 62-year-old Columbia Falls physician, was believed to have been skiing alone in the backcountry near the Flower Point area.

Volunteer search and rescue personnel continue searching out of bounds from the Flower Point area on skis and volunteers from North valley Search and Rescue working the lower sections of the search area on snowmobiles and snowshoes, according to Sheriff Chuck Curry.

“We wish to thank all the dedicated volunteers who have been working countless hours over the last two weeks in multiple search and rescue cases,” Curry said in a release.

The search continues to be unsuccessful, with searchers continuing to rule areas out and comb the search area, according to the Sheriff’s office.

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