Skier dies after falling into Whistler Mountain tree well 

Former Tofino resident frequent visitor to Whistler

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK FILE IMAGE
  • SHUTTERSTOCK FILE IMAGE

A 63-year-old West Vancouver skier has died after a tree well incident on Whistler Mountain.

At 11:15 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11 Whistler Mountain Ski Patrol was notified of the incident near the trail called Ratfink on Whistler Mountain.

Ski Patrol members, a paramedic and a mountain doctor responded to the scene, while members of the public administered CPR. Resuscitation attempts continued as the man was taken down the mountain to an ambulance and on to the Whistler Health Care Centre, where he was pronounced dead.

The victim was identified by the BC Coroners Office as 63-year-old John William Bauer. The Westerly News reported he was known to his friends and family members Jack Bauer and he was a long-time resident of Tofino who moved to West Vancouver three years ago. The newspaper on Vancouver Island spoke to Bauer's former partner, Shelley Renard of Tofino: "He and his partner were skiing along a path and he fell head-first into a tree well. His head was buried."

According to the Westerly News, Bauer, owned a company called Tofino Charters for 30 years. Renard said Bauer developed a passion for skiing after moving to the mainland.

Bauer, who was the father of two sons, was an avid surfer. He moved to Tofino in 1977 and in his time living and guiding on Vancouver Island he became very well-known around Tofino, Ucluelet and the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair with the Whistler-Pemberton RCMP said Bauer's death is under investigation because the cause of his death is unknown.

"We aren't sure if he suffocated or if a medical condition played a role," LeClair said.

Following Bauer's death WB issued a media statement encouraging mountain visitors to ski and ride with a partner or group.

Natural mountain hazards like tree wells occur inside and outside of the ski area boundary.

A tree well is a hole or depression that forms around the base of a tree while snow accumulates. A tree well incident occurs when a person falls, head first, into an area of deep snow around the base of a tree and becomes immobilized. The more the skier or snowboarder struggles the more entrapped in the snow they become. The risk of a tree well accident can be significantly reduced by staying in sight of each other and close enough to either pull or dig someone out of the snow if someone happens to go into a tree well.

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