Skiing in the trees has been great for our kids. Although they certainly love to ride the huge whales of snow on Coos Caper's terrain park, I like to think of glade skiing as nature's terrain park, with natural jumps, berms, and rollers. Every run can be different with a new line to pick and fresh snow to be found. We feel adventurous venturing out into the forest as we duck away from any crowds that might be headed down the groomers on a Saturday morning. Out of the wind and working a little harder to make quick turns through the trees, it's a bit warmer on those windy days.
Skiing in the trees builds confidence in our little rippers. Bretton Woods marks all of its glades as "black diamond," or expert terrain, because of the natural obstacles on the trail. But there are many glades that have gentle pitches and widely-spaced trees that give even an intermediate skier or rider plenty of room to glide down the slope. Dark Forest, off Two Miles Home, is a great starter glade. The entrance is nearly flat (keep your speed), then it eases you down through the Rosebrook Canyon amongst big maples keeping watch over the snow. At three years old, our kids bragged about skiing black diamonds.
Making their way through the trees forces them to read the terrain. You can't be lazy and just bomb down when you're in the glades. They are learning to look ahead and make choices for each turn, watching for any rocks or stumps that might be just poking up onto the surface of the snow.
It also makes turning a necessity, something we are constantly reminding Timmy to do when he's on the groomed runs. Dipping in and out of the trees, finding little stashes of untracked powder, choosing a line all your own is a thrill for the little adventure-seekers.
Some safety tips are important to keep in mind, though.
- With the kids, I always make sure an adult is skiing behind the kids. Although I try to adhere to this rule on any run, in the trees I think its especially important. If one of them does take a tumble, it's much easier to help them back up if I don't have to walk back up the trail after realizing they're not with me anymore. (I have learned this the hard way!)
- On that note of keeping an eye on the little ones, even as an adult, skiing with a buddy is always a good idea. If you did happen to get hurt, it's good to have someone nearby on the less-traveled routes down the mountain.
- Watch for tree wells. The circumference around a tree is often sheltered by its branches, creating a void of snow at its base. It can be hard to climb out of one of these wells if you get stuck.
- Often searching for a bit of untracked powder at the edge of a trail, I might have to duck under a low-hanging branch weighed down by the new snow. Wearing a helmet and goggles is always a good idea, but especially in the woods, when you might need a little extra protection.
- And just like when you are mountain biking, a good glade skier doesn't look at the trees ahead, but at spaces in between them. It's a bit of a mental game, but your skis or board will hopefully go where you are looking.
In his quest to mark down every trail on the mountain, Timmy took Outdoor Dad down Jump Turn this weekend, a glade I'm not sure I'd ever even been on. Bridget and I had enjoyed the fresh snow still falling on Dave's Drop, and watched Timmy emerge from the trees at the bottom of the glade with a huge grin on his face. Everything is open, and there's a whole mountain to be discovered out there. Have fun.