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Skiing the Trees

Skiing the Trees     New for 2020

OK, if this Tip is about how to ski in the trees, why is it in the Safety section?  The answer is that, with the possible exception of jumping off cliffs, tree skiing is one of the most dangerous things a skier can do.

Trees can be deadly.  I have personally known two young men who died from hitting trees while skiing/boarding.  Johnny was an accomplished skier who hit a tree on the first run of his first day as a full time professional Ski Patroller at Snowbird.  He was just sweeping the hill before the resort opened for the day.  Frank was a 16 year old high school student who was boarding with friends at HooDoo in central Oregon.

That’s the bad news.  The good news is that tree skiing can be lots of fun.  Challenging, but fun.  One of the biggest problems with skiing powder is that the snow gets tracked up on the designated runs almost immediately after the hill is opened.  But, because there is often much more skiable terrain off the runs, and many skiers don’t feel up to it, the powder remains untracked in the trees for a much longer period of time.  And, when the runs get icy, the snow may be softer in the shade of the trees.

There is no specific technique for skiing in the trees.  You will need to use techniques that are appropriate for the specific snow conditions you encounter.  Make sure that you are competent and confident enough to ski the conditions and steepness before entering the glade!  If the conditions are challenging for you, you don’t want to add the difficulty and danger of trees!

The most important thing you can do when skiing in the trees is DON’T LOOK AT THEM!

The human body and mind are amazingly linked.  The body has a strong tendency to go where you are looking.  In fact, when teaching beginners and they are having a hard time learning to turn, if often helps to tell them to simply look at a spot they want to go to.  By looking at that spot, the mind and body just somehow steer them to it.

When beginning to ski in the trees, it is totally logical to look at the trees, since hitting them could result in serious injury or death.  But, by looking at where you don’t want to go, you increase the chances of going right there!  So, the big lesson is to look at the spaces between trees where you do want to go.  It actually takes a little practice to look away from the thing that can kill you, so if you are going into the trees, work at focusing on where you want to go, not what you want to avoid.  Needless to say, start where the trees are far apart.  Also, don’t go in alone, and read the tip on Tree Wells.

Maybe you can’t see the forest for the trees, but luckily the forest is also full of spaces!