In my previous post I wrote about my transition from a blue groomer to black diamond skier, and mentioned how much the trees scared me.  It remained to be one of my last untouched frontiers in my skiing back pocket. Until now.

About a month ago I went on my annual trip with the guys, and this year we settled on Crested Butte, CO.  Conditions were looking spotty (like most everywhere else in the country at the time), and we were pretty worried about having just a marginal time on the slopes.

By a pure string of luck, Crested Butte got 15″ of snow the week leading up to the trip, and then another 15″ on our first day out.  Score!  It’s not that often that a kid from the Midwest gets to ski on a foot+ of new snow, so that meant it was time to try some new stuff.  And for me on this trip, that was TREES!

It snowed all of our first day and visibility was rough, but on the second day the sun came out and gave us beautiful views.  We spent most of the morning hanging out over on Double Top Glades (light trees) and Resurrection (bumps), both of which had great snow:


Double Top Glades at Crested Butte, CO (January 22, 2012)

I will admit that I was pretty nervous the first time we plowed through there, but quickly came to understand why people love it so much.  The scenery is great, it’s quiet, and there are several opportunities to hit new snow that others haven’t run through yet. Kind of the same feeling you get when you’re taking hikes through the woods in the winter.  There’s so much terrain to cut through that you can just take your time and have fun with it. We didn’t find many other areas with tight trees that we were willing to get into, but the new snow was so good that hitting all the bump runs was more than enough fun.

My trip also included a one-day trek to Telluride. They’d also gotten some great snow the week of our trip, so a lot of their runs had great powder to plow through too, including the tree lines.  We made our way over to the Prospect Lift and skied the trees around that area.


Jason and I waiting for a friend to make his way through the trees in Prospect Woods at Telluride, CO. (January 23, 2012)

Ironically enough, there were a few times where I managed to make it all the way through the woods and then wipe out on the exit pad because I was so tired. Obviously there is not as much room for error or places to cut wider to give your legs a rest. All part of the fun!

As a newbie to the trees, here’s what I learned on my first big experience:

  1. Stay mindful of what direction you need to head so that you don’t get totally off track. I’m always worried that I’ll pop out of the trees into one of those slow-sloping deep-snow dead zone areas between runs where you see people taking off their skis and hiking back to a marked run.
  2. Take your time. No need to rush through and be a hot shot, especially if you haven’t skied like this before.
  3. Stick with a friend, but keep your distance. There’s not going to be as much time to react to somebody falling or cutting through the path you’d planned on hitting, so giving a little extra space helps your ability to stay safe.
  4. Again! Again! As with the rest of my skiing experience, the more we went through the trees, the more I loved it. Keep trying new lines and you’ll become more comfortable with how to react and control your body and skis.
  5. Enjoy the beauty and have fun!


Finally, hats/goggles/helmets off to my group of friends for an awesome trip and lots of cool new experiences.  Every year we try something different, and I’ve been able to hit six resorts in three years that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. The plan is to hit up Tahoe next  year which will be a first for me. Anybody know of some good tree runs out there…?

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Sub-Categories Beginners / liftopia / More Snowsports / Ski / Snowboard

6 responses to “Getting the Guts to Ski the Trees”

  1. Kai Nilson says:

    #6: Keep your eyes on the open snow, not on the trees! Your body tends to go where your eyes go…..

  2. Greggy22 says:

    yup. the best advice i ever heard while tree-skiing was “don’t look at the trees, look at the holes”. The beauty of the terrain is unmatched, but the biggest advantage to tree skiing is finding fresh snow for days and days after a big snowfall.

  3. LRMErnst says:

    Just got back from three days of skiing at Heavenly in Tahoe. Again, snow was looking spotty leading up to our trip, but by the third day we got 8″ of snow overnight. We spent a lot of time in Aries Woods, Dipper Bowl and Ridge Bowl. I’ve got some great pictures if you’re interested!

  4. Fredski says:

    Hate to give out a good spot but Galaxy woods don’t get skied much.

  5. Frowsyscot says:

    #6 wear a helmet!

  6. Ryan says:

    one of the best pieces of advice on tree skiing i ever heard came from a ski patrol member at alpine meadows a few weeks ago: never ski in the trees faster than you are willing to hit one.

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