At Smugglers’ Notch Resort, gladed or wooded terrain encompasses about 22 percent of the trail network, and there are gladed areas for different levels of ability. Why ski glades? Skiers value a run through the woods for the natural beauty, challenge and caches of powder the experience can offer. How about adding this experience to your next ski vacation?
Smugglers’ adult ski instructor Sherm White has years of tree skiing under his belt and loves to introduce skiers to this special experience. He observes, “The essence of skiing in the trees is getting back to our roots (pun intended!), where the skier is alone with the mountain, without the benefit of grooming and snowmaking. But lots of people miss out on this experience because they are intimidated by skiing in tight spaces.”
If you’re new to skiing glades, a lesson can bolster your confidence and skills. Take note of the following tips from Sherm to enhance your experience:
- Study the trail map to figure out the best trail for you, given your skiing ability. Glades marked on the trail map are graded in difficulty, the same as other trails are. The grade is determined by the closeness of the trees and the steepness of the slope.
- For a first taste of skiing the trees, look for shorter trails that won’t tire you out and lots of negotiating space between the trees. Look for easy access to open trails if you need a break from skiing in the woods. More advanced skiers can look for longer runs with more challenge.
- Risk management is always important. If you don’t know where you are going, stay on the gladed trails marked on the trail map and by trail signs. Take your pole straps off your wrists and always wear eye protection. Many experienced glade skiers wear helmets as protection from too close calls with branches. Never ski in the woods alone, and always try to stay in sight of your companions.
- Skiing off groomed terrain puts a much greater emphasis on turning the feet to turn the skis. Carving really doesn’t work well. You need to be able to turn the skis on demand. Here are three skills you can practice on groomed terrain that will help you build the skills and confidence you’ll need:
Link hop turns, where you hop, turn your feet and land. Try to do this without twisting your upper body.
Sideslip by facing down the hill with your skis across the fall line, and slide downhill. See if you can point your tips from one side of the trail to the other without actually making a turn.
Practice hockey stops as a great exercise to control where you are going. The key is to stay balanced over your feet and not let your feet get ahead of or behind your body.
- After you’ve developed the skills to confidently ski gladed terrain, as you ski look at the spaces between the trees, rather than at the trees. Your body follows where you are looking.
- Just as you would with any trail, follow the rules when skiing glades. For example, at Smugglers’ most of the gladed trails close at 3 pm, so you shouldn’t plan on entering the glades right before or after that. Also, never duck under a rope that marks a closed area or head out of bounds late in the day. If something goes wrong you will be putting yourself and any rescue response in danger.
If you are new to the woods, or don’t have anyone to venture into the woods with, taking a lesson is worthwhile. Your classmates just may become your new glade skiing buddies during your ski vacation. The instructor can help you add a new and rewarding dimension to your mountain experience and serve as your guide to those secret snow stashes!