A father and son’s backcountry skiing outing turned into a heart-pounding fight for life after the son fell into a tree well.
Winston Goss was skiing with his 15-year-old son, Ethan Goss, in McCall, Idaho, when Ethan disappeared and fell into a tree well, the snow at the bottom of a tree.
Goss dug his son out of the snow as Ethan was gasping for air.
“I just need to breathe,” Ethan can be heard saying in a video of the incident, after he was pulled to safety. "I had a near-death experience."
Goss posted the video of the scary incident on his Facebook page last week as a warning to other parents. The video has now been viewed more than one million times.
“I remember sitting there watching the video with him, my leg was shaking just a bit,” Goss told ABC News. “It was pretty emotional afterwards. It was a true moment for me to pull him out.”
“You never expect something like that to happen to you, but once it does, it’s kind of shocking,” added Ethan.
Tree wells, which disguise the true amount of snow beneath a skier’s feet, account for 20 percent of all ski fatalities, according to the Northwest Avalanche Institute.
The Institute also reports that 90 percent of skiers who fall in tree wells fail to get themselves out without help.
“It can be really scary,” said John Clary Davies, executive editor of Powder magazine. “If you hit the tree, you can knock a lot of the snow that’s on the tree off and that can pile on top of you as well.”
Experts advise keeping a hand in front of your face to clear a place to breathe if you do fall in a tree well.
They also recommend hugging the tree, if possible, to use as leverage to push yourself up, and to always ski with a buddy and keep each other in sight.
Goss said his son’s encounter with a tree well is not one he will soon forget.
“You might hear of somebody who was in a well, [but] it doesn't really touch home until you actually have someone that you know, or a loved one fall in,” Goss said.