“Cut a path through the trees. Then, in the spring, cut down every tree with blood on it” – Réal Boulanger
Ever since our man Réal, one of the founders of the fabled Mont Sutton in Québec, had the inspiration to ski through the trees, they have been a ‘if you know, you know’ kind of thing. While there is no shortage of great spots across the East and West, not every mountain is blessed with splendid glades.
Species and spacing
What makes for great tree skiing? Well, first off, you need to have the right type of trees. As you’ll see in our blurb below about Steamboat, aspens make for some of the most surreal tree skiing. The lack of low-lying limbs makes the skiing free and clear, but be careful not to let a stray one whip you in the face. Pine and spruce are just fine too, but again, you gotta be mindful of those branches! A few inches of height can make the difference between ducking successfully and ending up with a bloody lip. Along those lines, the spacing must be just right, where it’s not too tight to exact revenge on mankind for cutting down its fellows, and not too far apart, as that’s not really a glade, at least in my opinion!
The ideal pitch
The next thing that is crucial is the right pitch. Steep trees are fun as hell, but the M.O. for those areas is to go slow, as you don’t want to reach terminal velocity. Having a pitch below 30° helps keep your speed at consistent levels, and it’s the best for cruising through them without having it turn into slow going. You’ve got more runs to crush, after all!
Another thing to keep in mind is to be aware of rocks and fallen logs – they can be a ton of fun to pop over, or in the case of logs, if you’re feeling bold, treat them like a rail and grind down them (you gotta be bold for that, of course), but they can also send you head over heels quicker than you can blink. While we don’t typically advocate for riding in the back seat, it’s a good idea to keep your tips up to ensure that the logs and rock pillows are fun and not season-ending.
The buddy system
One last point to make here is that, if you find yourself in a new set of trees, it’s always a good idea to ski with a buddy, and keep in contact throughout. No need to create unnecessary anxiety for those who might be waiting for you at the bottom of the run!
Steamboat, Priest Creek
If you happen to catch Priest Creek on a powder day, well you are one lucky fella! Like mentioned above, what sets Priest Creek apart is the perfectly spaced aspens that you can follow for what seems like miles. These aren’t exactly a secret, though, so it’s a smart idea to get at them early, as they’ll get eaten up before some of the other spots on the mountain.
Snowbird, off the Gad 2 lift
What’s not to love about a seemingly endless array of beautiful glades that snake down the skier’s left side of the mountain? While the tram and Peruvian Express get most of the skier traffic, you can find glade paradise skier’s left of the Gad 2 lift. Thicket after copse of rolling, powder-filled trees, one after the other leads you all the way down to the bottom, where you get to head up and do it all over again. Careful though – there are plenty of marked cliffs, but fortunately there is always a safe outlet on one side or the other.
Big Sky, Dakota 3 Trails
While Big Sky is perhaps better known for their looming cliffs and mandatory-air chutes, there is plenty of terrain that registers lower on the pucker scale, and as an added bonus, you won’t run into scree fields either! Head over to the Dakota 3 lift and you’ll feel like you have the mountain to yourself. The trails in these parts wind in and out with each other, so you can easily spend the better part of a day lapping the chair and finding new lines each time.
One of the hidden gems in Colorado, Monarch Mountain is like stepping back in time! Not only does the mountain have an awesome retro vibe, but you’re also likely to find yourself completely alone if you head over to Mirkwood. Hike-to terrain is always worth it, and no more so than here! Just take the Breezeway lift, and after a nice 15-minute hike, you’ll be ready to drop in to that good stuff. Keep in mind that, while the difficulty of double blacks can vary from mountain to mountain, these trees are steep, so be ready for it!
These are but just a few of the many wonderful areas full of glades to be found across the US. Regardless of where you find your line in the trees, don’t forget to check with us first for the best deals on tickets, gear and lodging!