How To Ski the Trees

Use these tips to have fun and stay safe when tree skiing.

Head to any resort on a powder day and you’d better get there early to score any fresh snow on the slopes. But head into the trees and you can find untracked powder all day long (and often days later). Skiing and riding trees, however, is a bit different than schussing down an open slope. Here’s how to have maximum fun with minimum risk.  

Ski with a Friend

Just because your inbounds doesn’t mean you can count on help in case of an accident or getting lost. Some big resorts have vast forests that are great for skiing but can leave you stranded if you’re injured. Head out with a friend or in a group for safety. Also, decide on your line and where you’re meeting after the pitch, and check-in with your skimates periodically to regroup (and rest your legs).

Slow Down

Don’t turn them loose like you would on an open slope. In skier versus tree encounters, the tree always wins. Navigating trees requires more turns, better maneuverability, and the ability to stay in control at all times. Slow down.   

Start Out in Glades

Avoid the tightest tree stands when you’re just getting started; begin in wide open glades before heading into tighter and more difficult trees. Glades allow for easy, swooping turns as you’re learning.   

Look Ahead

This is critical. You want to look a few turns ahead. Anticipate each turn well beforehand and adjust your line for upcoming obstacles. If you can, plan out your next four or five turns. And you’re not just looking for trees. Keep an eye out for hazards like downfall and stumps (often seen as bumps in the snow), errant branches, rocks, and more.  

Don’t Look at the Trees

Look at the spaces between the trees instead of the trees themselves (if you focus on the tree, there’s a better chance you’ll hit it). Let your skis or board follow your gaze to the clear routes between the trees. 

Be Patient

Don’t jump into the trees in early season, when there’s no base; wait until later when there’s a solid foundation of snow over downfall and other obstacles. Remember, there’s no grooming or snow guns in the trees; it’s all natural and it takes a while to develop a safe base. Tip: If you’re in trees and the snow depth seems suspect, try to keep your ski tips up out of the snow so they don’t submarine under unseen obstacles. 

Hands Forward

Just as on the open slopes, keep your hands forward in an aggressive skiing posture so you’re on top of your skis and can make quick adjustments on the fly. If you find yourself in the back seat, slow down or stop to regroup rather than trying to ride it out.

Make Short, Round Turns

Think of tree skiing as a slalom course. Keep your turns short and round to scrub speed and negotiate tight obstacles, with each turn forming an arc. 

Relax and Rest

Stay relaxed and try not to tense up. If you find your legs burning, or your confidence is shaken, stop and take a breather. Trees have consequences for missed turns, so stay on your game. And if you’re tired, or at the end of a long day, consider saving that last run for next time. 

Beware Tree Wells

Deep tree wells pose a serious risk, because you can suffocate if you fall headfirst into one. These conical depressions form at the base of trees (especially coniferous trees, whose branches block snow from accumulating at the base), and they’re especially dangerous to solo skiers and riders (remember, bring a friend). Steer clear of tree wells, and if you find yourself falling into one, try to keep your feet below you, grab branches if you can, and if you go headfirst into the snow keep your arm over your face to create an air pocket. 

Wear a Helmet

You always wear a helmet when skiing or riding, right? 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.