How to Ski Trees and Glades [Get Started with Tree Skiing]

Tree skiing is one of the most exciting places to ski on the mountain. The feeling of heading through the forest with speed is just a vibe. Knowing how to ski trees and glades before going into them is super important if you want to ski safely.

From low-hanging branches to tree wells, there are a lot of dangers you have to look out for when skiing trees and glades.

Glade Skiing on Redemption Ridge
Glade Skiing. Picking a path. Photo Credit Doug Zwick (Flickr CC)

What Is Tree Skiing?

You’ve probably heard of it or seen it on the ski maps but might have had your reservations on tree skiing. Essentially tree skiing is generally where the resorts have managed the trees and zoned off an area of downhill riding.

There is the thrill of riding into a forest of trees when skiing or also called glades. Depending on the slope, it can be a mix of a peaceful forest run or a fast tree dodging experience to test your skills.

How Hard is It To Ski Glades?

If you are a competent blue-level skier or above then you most likely have the technical skills to ski trees. Any friend or instructor should be able to tell you if your skills are up to par with the tree skiing areas at the resort.

Can a Beginner Ski Glades?

Even if there are easier level glades or trees to ski, it’s often best for intermediate skiers or above to ski glades. Beginners can get overwhelmed quickly if they head into the glades and also their technical abilities often aren’t up to the level needed in the glades.

As a beginner, if tree skiing is your goal, master your technical skills on beginner slopes and then take a private glade skiing lesson to get up to speed quickly. Lessons will help you will all the ins and outs of tree skiing.

Knowing When You Are Ready for Tree Skiing

Sign for Glade skiing.
Sign for Glade skiing. Photo Credit Joe Shlabotnik (Flickr CC)

As we mentioned, a friend or instructor will be the best person to let you know you are ready for tree skiing. You are going to want to tree ski with a friend anyway for safety.

Another way to know you are ready for tree skiing is to judge your own skill level. If you are skiing harder intermediate trails to black diamonds then you have the skills for the glades. Once you know you have the skills, let’s look at how to ski trees.

How to Ski Trees and Glades (8 Pointers for Skiing Trees)

Unlike regular trails or moguls, tree skiing is a different beast of its own. Just like normal slopes, there are different skill levels for tree skiing. It depends on the grade of the slope as well as how far the trees are spaced apart. Having the right gear is important before you make a run into the glades.

Ski Gear Needed to Ski Trees:

Skiing Skills Required to Ski Trees:

  • Able to make quick turns
  • Strong ability to read terrain and make decisions
  • Be able to stop when needed

If you can check all that off then let’s look at some pointers and how to ski trees.

1. Skiing With a Buddy

Powder glade runs.
Powder glade runs. Photo Credit Ruth Hartnup (Flickr CC)

You’d be surprised by the number of skiers who venture into the trees alone. The issue is, no one else knows you are in there. Imagine falling into a tree well or crashing into a tree and having no help. It certainly happens.

Even the most experienced skiers shouldn’t be skiing trees without a ski buddy. Skiing trees in pairs is one of the biggest safety rules. What may seem like an easy run can turn out to be really bad if you get hurt. Take a buddy and you will be much better off!

2. Leave the Speed on the Trails

Controlling your speed when tree skiing will not only lead to more time for decision-making but also is overall the safest way to ride through trees. Riding at a slower speed than you normally would sets up for our next point – avoid trying to go under low-hanging branches.

3. Avoid Going Under Low Branches

If you are picking a route where you are having to duck under branches then you are riding too close to the trunk of the trees and subjecting yourself to tree wells.

Another thing you shouldn’t be ducking in the trees is any out-of-bounds ropes. They are there for a reason. Sometimes you won’t even know what is on the other side. It is best to finish out your tree run down to the bottom and not exit prematurely off to the sides and under ropes.

4. Maintain Your Composure

The first time you ski trees, it may freak you out a little bit. Trees come faster than you’d expect which is a great reason to ski slower. Having good composure when you go into the trees can make all the difference.

Maintain that composure so you can execute your technical skiing skills like controlling your speed, making small turns and reading the terrain ahead. As you take more runs in the glades, your composure will build up and be more instinctual.

5. Don’t Strap Into Your Ski Poles When Tree Skiing

Ever fall on a regular trail and have your poles strapped to your wrists? Sure, your poles might stay nearby in a crash but it can be a nightmare to your wrists. It is amplified when tree skiing.

When you start a tree skiing run, don’t strap into your ski poles. It prevents you from the unlikely event of catching a branch and will help if you take a fall.

6. Have Your Turns Mastered Before Skiing Trees

Tree skiing on the Saddleback glades
Tree skier. Photo Credit Jack Flanagan (Flickr CC)

The backbone of tree skiing is being able to confidently make turns in sometimes tight spaces. You are setting yourself up for success if you are confident in your ability to make short quick turns.

While some glades are thinned out more than others, short turns are a must-have skill for any glades. Practice and master short turns on trails outside of the glades before your first tree skiing experience.

7. Use Your Eyes to Read the Terrain

Beginner tree skiers can freeze up in a big patch of trees. You need to be focused ahead and between the trees. Your body will follow where your eyes go. This means if you are looking through the gaps, your body will follow suit.

Don’t get stuck on looking at the trees. Instead, you should also ski as if they aren’t there and find the optimal path between them. Keep your head and eyes up, letting your eyes do all the work.

8. Wear a Helmet in the Glades

You can’t always rely on your skills because mistakes can happen. If for some reason you wreck and hit a tree or branch, you are going to wish you had a helmet. Wear one and you will be taking a proactive approach when skiing.

Skiing Trees: Is It Dangerous?

Tree skiing has two major dangers – the trees themselves and tree wells. The best thing you can do for the trees themselves is to wear a helmet, read the terrain and ski around them.

For the wells, you need to maintain your distance. Skiing trees can be dangerous but by learning how to ski trees and glades with the proper technique, you’ll greatly minimize any risk of injury.

Final Thoughts on How to Ski Trees

Skiing trees can be pure relaxation and is one place skiers go to get away from any crowds on the trails. It takes a certain skill level to ski trees but once you learn how to ski trees and glades, you will open up a lot more terrain on the mountain.

Wear your helmet, take a buddy and have fun while exploring tree skiing.

Brianna Lee writes for Proper Peaks and lives in Duluth, MN. Her favorite thing about skiing is the glades. Your have to start in the glades if you want to catch a glimpse of Brianna’s pink ski helmet as she dodges the trees.

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