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For many of us, skiing through the aging process means no longer going places we once skied without thinking twice. Now, approaching my 80’s, my mantra is never to overstep my capabilities and always watch out for the other guy!

Anticipate turns when skiing the trees!                                             Illustration: Mike Roth

 

I’ve always loved skiing in the trees and still do on occasions when conditions are right, and I’m feeling up to the task. I enjoy the silence, the natural snow, and the general absence of other skiers. But I’m always on guard avoiding the trees and their branches.

My Favorite Eastern Glades

Some of my memorable tree runs have been in the East, where I do most of my skiing.

Mount Snow’s North Face tree runs are challenging. However, the tree run on the main face to the left of “One More Time“ is a delightful intermediate. Also, at Carinthia, the trees between Mineshaft and Nitro are fun.

Killington offers plenty of tree runs, for skiers of all ages and abilities. A favorite of mine is Squeeze Play, to the right of Ramshead’s Timberline trail. It is easily handled.

My favorite at Gore Mountain is Twister Glade. Like many other gladed runs, it needs a certain amount of natural snow.

Bromley’s Avalanche Glades are fun. The area’s Everglade to the Glade is a bit easier.

The south face of Okemo is where you’ll find Forrest Bump (cute name), Double Diamond, Outrage, and Loose Spruce. It’s on the latter that a snow snake twisted my leg.

A different take on Glade Skiing.                  Illustration: Mike Roth

Glade Skiing Rules

Here are rules I follow when skiing glades:

  • Never Ski Alone. It’s best to ski with 3 others. If one person is hurt, another can remain, while the third gets ski patrol.
  • Don’t Use Pole Straps. Catching a pole on a branch can damage arm and/or shoulder. The release mechanism on some Leki poles helps avoid the potential problem.
  • Wear Goggles and Helmet. They are essential protection when skiing trees
  • Carry a Loud Whistle. It’s advisable wherever you ski. If you get hurt or lost, a series of loud blasts will attract help.
  • Ski Within Your Ability

And a few pointers for tree-skiing:

  • Anticipate turns: Look to where you want to go between the trees and try to anticipate your next two turns
  • Make smooth rounded turns: In the woods, bumps tend to be soft, with plenty of places to set an edge

We skiers may be getting older, but, with the right attitude and a good dose of caution, we can still enjoy skiing in the trees.

35 Comments

  1. At 80, I’m trying to improve my woods skiing. Very carefully. Mostly at Gore.
    What’s needed are more “intermediate“ glades. Currently there are 3 marked intermediate: Otter Slide, Rabbit Run and Half n Half, The first two get tracked up very quickly and the third is just a narrow gently sloping foot trail.
    Tahawus Glades, although marked single black, skis like a blue and is usually less trafficked because it’s difficult to reach.
    I’d be interested in hearing info re: other Gore or Killy glades which act more blue than black.

    • Funny you mention this glade, that’s my next on to tackle too. Just need to find someone to go in with. Riley won’t do it!

  2. Joe S Mueller says:

    Powder Mountain (east of Ogden, Utah) has a very good selection of intermediate tree runs, both Aspen and evergreen.

  3. Ronald+Magray says:

    At 82 I learned an important lesson skiing in the trees at Brekenridge. I was attempting to exit a tree run, had to go up hill and exit through a narrow gate, caught one ski and fell backward into a tree well. I could not be heard by skiers on a crossing trail. I got out exhausted, but taught me a lesson carry a whisle!

  4. David Brennan says:

    63 years old this season and I hit the woods up at Jay, truly amazing stuff up there. Practically the entire mountain is gladded. My rule is a groomer to start off the morning and then the woods. After several wood runs the rest of the day is on groomers or bumps. Need to be at my best for the woods.

    • Smart

    • Hi, I’m 63 as well. I used to ski as a very young man on rental ski’s. My wife and I bought our first set of skis last year, since we are contemplating retirement and would like to make skiing one of our retirement past times.
      I’m not even sure if skiing the glades is even on my radar, but your words are inspiring!

      • Mike Roth says:

        Nice to hear, skis today are so much better than in the past. Enjoy your retirement and keep on skiing. I am 78 and still love it and plan on skiing till they put me in the ground. My skis will be put there with me because my skiing buddy who has past on has told me that there is skiing in heaven

  5. HELP!!

    RE: ARTICLE ON SKIING GLADES BY MIKE ROTH

    I WAS LITERALLY ON THE LAST LINE OF A LETTER THAT TOOK ME AN HOUR TO WRITE! BUT, TRAGICALLY, I TOOK A DETOUR TO LOOK AT SOMETHING ON GOOGLE….

    AND MY LETTER HAS DISAPPEARED. CANNOT GET IT BACK TO FINISH UP AND SEND. AM A LONG-TIME SUBSCRIBER BUT HAD NO IDEA YOU COULD LOSE A LETTER JUST BY BACKSPACING!.

    IS IT STILL (HOPEFULLY) ANYWHERE IN YOUR SYSTEM?? SIGH… 🙁

  6. Look at the spaces not the trees. We tend to go where we look.
    In the aspens keep your arms closer to your sides, don’t ask how I learned that fine point.

    • John Whitney says:

      I agree, look at the spaces not the trees is one of my top rules for tree skiing. I also tend to avoid the glades when icy or mixed snow conditions might result in catching an edge at an inopportune moment. No fun smacking the hardwood.

  7. Birch Glade at Pico is peaceful and often empty.

  8. To me, Tree/glade skiing is the ULTIMATE in accomplished skiing (in the East.) Cold temps are cushioned by the trees and they block harsh wind, eliminates flat light/fog and usually invites you to a powder stash, and at least, natural snow! Use ski poles that adjust in length and a large basket on the pole is suggested, especially when you are trying to pick yourself up after falling. The glades I ski in, you can bury your entire fixed pole length before it stops and makes in nearly impossible to right yourself. When reverting to making a X with both poles to support your weight leads to more trouble. Removing a ski to get up when in my glades could lead to a 20 minute ordeal, as sinking to the crotch by stepping off the ski into the snow is typical. In a mixed species glade of undulating terrain w/ evergreen and hardwood, majority pathways have blindspots of 50′ and crossing paths with an unknown presence of a dynamic skier is highly possible. This risk of collision is still a much higher possibility in the glades in comparison to On-trail. Impact with another accomplished skier could cause even a more serious impact, by being deflected into a tree, when combining physics with each’s speed. I equip a ski pole with a bear bell and let it jingle while in the glade, as a higher(but slight) chance the other guy will hear some sound, and think, there is a #2 skier nearby? Keep each of the trees you are aiming to go between in your peripheral eyesight, focusing on the snow path between the two trees. The pathway may also have obstacles you’ll also need to dodge, as well. Try to plan the next turn before entering the turn you are about to make. The only safety feature of not skiing alone in a glade is in case a rescue is needed. Otherwise, even if there are 3 of you, you are totally on your own in a glade and equally subject to all the hazards.

  9. Two skiers in their 70s have died this season at Eldora Mountain Resort here in Colorado hitting trees. As beautifully as the woods are, I have decided I do not want to become another statistic, so I have given up skiing trees completely. I want to ski many more years safely!

  10. Kevin Toolan says:

    At 75 I have retired from glade/tree skiing. I have abandoned the “ o guts, no glory philosophy. I have enjoyed the Okemo glades mentioned in the article, but my favorite was the glades in Pico Mountain, down the road from Killington.

  11. Scott Jimmerson says:

    With 50+ years of trees behind me, as others have said, I only see the openings. At 74, I have slowed down quite a bit and find it fun to see how many openings I can hit by completing my turns. At slower speeds it would be more of a hug if a tree gets in my way. Only once has an aspen jumped in my way. I feel safer in the trees than on groomed runs with “racers” seemingly always wanting to be in the same spot as I.

  12. Delighted that Mike Roth called out the Mount Snow trees next to One More Time and between Mineshaft and Nitro over at Carinthia! I live in those woods when conditions permit. Perfect difficulty level for me at 71.

  13. Turning 78 in a few days, I realize my balance is not what it used to be, and I’m not as quick on my feet. I’m done with trees unless they are fairly open glades. The upper half of the Burn on peak 10 at Breckenridge is OK, but the trees get tighter further down, and I usually end up side-slipping a lot. I’ll stick to open runs and bowls.

  14. Dick Butler loved the glades and especially Twister Glades

  15. Thomas Porter says:

    Hey Mike, great read. I would add Smugglers Notch, Bolton Valley, Breton Woods and best of all Tremblant.

  16. Jon Hallgren says:

    Yes – Powder Mountain has lots of glades for all levels. Many of the intermediate glades can be viewed from the lifts. I was just there last week but no new powder and no tree skiing.

  17. Douglas Haddad says:

    I am 82 years old and still love to glade ski. My advice to anyone skiing glades is to ski with at least one buddy, carry a whistle and a iPhone with the ski patrol number in it. Do NOT let any of your ski companions join you in the glades if you feel their skills are not what are needed to ski glades safely.

  18. MICHAEL ROTH says:

    great advice Douglas, I am going to get myself a whistle. maybe we can use them when we pass a skier 2 blasts from the right and 1 blast from the left. I still use my voice to let them know. too bad others don’t let you know when they pass you to announce! maybe 1 out of 30 might do it.

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