Skier dies in tree well on Big Mountain

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Big Mountain lights up at sunset last week. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

A skier was found dead in a tree well on Whitefish Mountain Resort Friday afternoon.

According to the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, the 56-year-old Canadian man became separated from his friend and was reported missing. Around 3:15 p.m., Whitefish Mountain Resort Ski Patrol found his body buried in a tree well on the mountain’s south side near the summit.

The skier was identified as Charles “Chuck” Douglas James Herr, of Calgary, by Buffalo Hill Funeral Home, which is caring for the family.

This marks the second confirmed death at Whitefish this winter. The first, on New Year’s Eve, was also a tree well incident.

A tree well is a void in the snowpack around the base of an evergreen tree. When skiers or snowboarders fall into this space, they can find it impossible to escape alone and suffocate when the snow collapses around them.

In a separate incident Friday, a Canadian snowboarder was reported missing near the Chair 2 area at Whitefish Mountain Resort at about 6:30 p.m. A search by Flathead Search and Rescue and Nordic Ski Patrol was initiated. The Two Bear Air rescue helicopter also responded and was able to locate the man out of bounds shortly before midnight below the ski resort between Northern Lights Drive and Whitefish Lake.

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

Meanwhile, the search continues for Dr. Jon Torgerson of Columbia Falls. Curry said about 20 searchers are combing the Flower Point area for signs of the missing skier, who disappeared Feb. 17.

In a press release, Curry thanked all the volunteers who have helped out over the last two weeks in the multiple search and rescue cases.

Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly@dailyinterlake.com, or at 758-4407.

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