In this environment, strong winter winds quickly abrade away overly-exposed living material. Dead material doesn't last very long either. Yet this tree remains alive, with vital growth attached to the dead wood at the lower-right and upper-left.
It was only by comparing the above tree to something more youthful (at right) that I was able to identify it as the Dwarf Birch (Betula nana). Forests of this tree can be ancient, but only inches tall.