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Ski Resort Life

Trees, Please


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Grass, rocks, ice, wind drift–these are just some of the challenging treats you’ll find when skiing the trees in the East. Indeed, with its naturally tight, steep, and narrow trails, New England offers some of the country’s toughest tree runs. And now, more resorts are offering “official” (i.e., marked, maintained, and patrolled) tree skiing to keep up with bark-hungry skiers. You’ll still have to seek out the trees, though. While some runs are on the map, trails are not always well marked. Others are known only to locals, who often maintain the trails themselves by clearing paths during the off-season. That said, here’s a roundup of some of New England’s best and most expansive tree spots. Happy hunting.–Iseult Devlin

210 acres of official glades
Jay Peak is synonymous with tree skiing, in part because there’s so much to like–literally–about the trees at Jay Peak: 20-plus glade runs spread over 385 acres. With Timbuktu at the eastern edge and Beaver Pond glade on the western margin, there’s tree skiing from one end of the resort to the other. Ranging from “starter” glades like Bushwacker and Moonwalk to hidden, or pocket, glades–quickies like Hell’s Woods or Buck’s Woods–and the grand, sweeping plunges of Everglade and Staircase, the sheer variety impresses. Jay looks after all of them–“nurturing” them, as management puts it. Best of all, there’s more to come, with a catch line being cut to get the adventurous back from the 250 acres of wild-side woods beyond Beaver Pond.–John Dostal

150 acres of official glades
The newly expanded Bretton Woods has joined the tree-skiing ranks. Fifty percent of its tree runs are marked black and 40 percent double black. These designations generally overstate the degree of difficulty, but not always: Cliff’s Cliff, for example, starts off of Joseph’s run with a drop off a cliff followed by some tight turns before opening up to some gradually sloped lines. Altogether, Bretton Woods has 345 skiable acres with 150 acres of tree skiing, 100 of which debuted last year with the West Mountain expansion. A portion of this terrain has been gladed.–I.D.

97 acres of official glades
Sunday River is quietly clearing more and more of its surrounding dense Maine woods to offer a tree-skiing experience for almost everyone. This winter, the double-black, 800-foot-long Wizard’s Gulch joins an already healthy roster of glades. Granted, most of Sunday River’s tree terrain is rated double black, but there are some fairly “easy” and popular black glades like Blind Ambition and Last Tango. Oz Peak has some of the mountain’s more challenging runs, with superlong glades like Emerald City and Tin Woodsman (both about 1,000 vertical feet) and Flying Monkey–probably the area’s toughest run with its steep pitch and extremely tight trees. Well, maybe not as tough as Celestial (a locals’ favorite)–it looks inviting, but it gets steeper and tighter as you go.–I.D.

90 acres of official glades
When you think of tree skiing in the East, Stratton may not come to mind. But the mountain added 20 acres of new glades last winter to bring its total to a respectable 90 acres. The expansion even includes some “introductory” glades for beginners and wide, well-spaced intermediate glades like Emerald Forest (marked blue, 100 meters wide). Dancing Bear is a black-diamond tree run that spills out onto World Cup, the steepest bump run on the mountain. But the trees are spread out nicely, making it easy to find a comfortable rhythm through some well-defined paths. Double-black Shred Wood Forest is one of the longest, narrowest, and steepest glades, but it’s also fun to ski because the snow stays intact longer thanks to a northern exposure. Moon Dance, a double black, and Diamond In The Rough, a black, are both located on the face of Stratton. But you can make them as tough or easy to ski as you want-skiing straight down the ffall line, or traversing over tricky sections, like the cliff jump.–I.D.

75 acres of official glades
Loyal locals are who you’ll mostly find between the trees at Sugarbush. Even though there are close to 75 maintained acres of trail-map tree skiing, most of it’s still hard to see. Those who do get to it will find their share of powder. Plus, there’s a lot of unofficial tree skiing that is not maintained or patrolled, and regulars swear by a great selection of steeps, river beds, gullies, birch glades, and old logging roads. And, that’s not counting the 2,000 acres of undisturbed wilderness between the area’s two mountains (ask about Slide Brook Basin tours). Last winter, Sugarbush added three new glades called Egan’s Woods, Lew’s Line, and Deeper Sleeper. Egan’s Woods–named after extreme skier John Egan–is the toughest with enough stumps and rocks to keep even the most avid tree goers on their toes.–I.D.

Most glades unofficial
Tree skiing was, and for many skiers still is, the heart of the Stowe experience. The famed Perry Merrill trail began its long service not in its present-day incarnation as cruiser but, according to a 1943 trail map, as “an intermediate forest glade trail.” Even with management’s recent appropriation of locals’ lines–the occasionally sucker-punching Tres Amigos and the decidedly more soul-searching Lookout Glades-Stowe has relatively few on-the-map dells beyond the majestic, not-to-be-missed 1930s-era Nosedive Glades. Yeah, well. Management disclaims any knowledge–they’re shocked!–but Stowe teems with unofficial tree shots, in- and out-of-bounds, from quickies to lengthy best-of-class epics. You’re on your own and should expect steep, craggy, and unforgiving skiing.–J.D.

Most glades unofficial
Mad River is the original tree-skiing area offering boundary-to-boundary skiing on its 810 total acres (110 are actual designated trails). Official trail-map gladed runs like Paradise and Fall Line are ultrachallenging with steep drops, rocks, tree stumps, and tight spots. There are also the Gladed Bands, which are short shots through the woods completely hidden from sight, and endless backcountry skiing with sweet surprises such as numerous streambeds that are like natural halfpipes. With its real snow, natural obstacles, and, um, rugged approach to maintenance, it’s no wonder Mad River has a devoted following of regulars.–I.D.

Tree Skiing Tips
àƒ,à‚• Don’t focus on the trees. Good skiers don’t see the trees at all; they just see the snow in between them. àƒ,à‚• Start with an easier glade run and do more traversing until you get the hang of it and feel comfortable in the trees. Then, if the snow’s right, ski the fall line a bit more aggressively. àƒ,à‚• Best time to go tree skiing? When it’s windy and the snow has blown off the groomed runs. Chances are lots of snow has collected in the glades so skiing could be superb. àƒ,à‚• Go with a buddy. Tree skiing can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.–I.D.