11 Tips for Skiing the Trees Without Fear

Learn tips for dialing in your tree skiing and riding to improve confidence in trees and begin to explore an exciting new terrain challenge.

Young & Independent on Fresh Powder in Vail, CO

Skiing Trees Without Fear


The trees lining each side of the trail hold a particularly alluring mystique after you’ve grown accustomed to charging down the wide-open slopes of your favorite mountain. After all, tree skiing brings its unique slice of heaven in the form of deep powder, untouched lines, and incredible visibility, even on days when the rest of the mountain is stuck in a whiteout.

That said, you may feel a bit intimidated by the prospect of plowing through the woods and dodging obstacles. It’s not always easy to see your line through the trees, much less a whole forest of lines, so here are a few tips on how to ski trees to get you dialed in this winter.


11 Tips on How To Ski Trees


Keep all the tips here in mind before you venture into the trees. A little knowledge and preparation go a long way toward helping you get started skiing and riding in the trees. 

1. Ski with a buddy.

Your direct line of sight might be excellent, but it can be easy to lose your way in the woods. Make sure you don’t go solo, especially if you’re new to tree skiing. As you go through the trees, checking in with your buddy or crew every few turns is always a good idea.

2. Practice making short turns on the open slope.

Before you sign up for the real deal, stop for a moment while you’re out on one of your favorite wide-open trails or bowls, and imagine a lineup of trees below you. Practice making short, quick turns down the slope through the imaginary forest. This will help mentally and physically prepare you for the trees. If you can handle moguls, that’s also a good way to practice for the trees before you dive into them. 

3. Start in wider glades.

As you become increasingly obsessed with skiing trees, you’ll inevitably have to transform into a human paperclip once or twice to maneuver through a particularly tight pair of pines. But when you’re first learning, there’s no need to test out your shoulder width. Starting in wider glades will allow for broad, loose turns as you get comfortable. Glades are just tree runs with each tree spread further apart than typical tree skiing. It’s like a Green version of the trees. These are the runs to practice before you work toward narrower paths.

4. Look ahead and anticipate your turns.

It’s always a good idea to stop and scan ahead, planning your next four to five turns. This is sound advice for many advanced skiing situations, including the trees. Be sure to note if there are lumps along your planned route, and know that you must maneuver around these as well since they are likely stumps, bushes, or other obstacles. 

5. Slow down.

You may not an Olympian dodging trees like slalom gates at lightning pace—don’t feel like you have to go at Mach speed. Even when your next few turns are planned, take your time with them to build confidence turning through obstacles. The trees don’t move and often have low-hanging branches that can sneak up if you approach them too quickly.

6. Don’t look at the trees.

They tell you this when you’re learning to drive, too. If you are staring directly at the obstacle in front of you, chances are you will run right into it. Plant your gaze where you want to turn, and your skis or board will follow. You should always keep your eyes ahead of you and fixed on the white line between the trees as if it were a twisted road you need to navigate.

7. Wait for a decent base to build up.

No resort has snow guns aimed at the glades, and even when numerous snowstorms have pounded the ski area, it takes a while for a safe base to accumulate in the trees. The end of January is usually a tried and true timeline for dipping into the woods, but it’s always a good idea to scope things out beforehand to ensure there is enough snow.  

8. Keep your hands forward and weight centered.

Just like skiing moguls or variable snow, you want to keep your boxing hands ready and maintain an aggressive stance. This will help you stay upright and allow you to easily tap into your quick reflexes, which come into play as you make shorter turns than you’re typically used to out on the open slope.

9. Make short but round turns.

Some people think that jump turns are necessary for tree skiing, but that is not true. Like skiing powder (which you usually are in the trees), it’s best to make short turns, but in such a way that the tail of your skis or board follows the same line as the nose, forming an arc rather than an angle. This advice depends on the specific terrain in your tree run, but applies to many tree skiing situations. 

10. Never duck ropes to reach trees.

When you venture into the woods, make sure that you only do so where they are opened to the slope or accessed through a gate. If there is a rope or fence between the trail and the woods, that means they are off-limits. Ducking a rope can get your Pass pulled or put you in a life-threatening situation. It’s not worth it. 

11. Relax.

As with skiing or riding any terrain, tensing up your muscles will exhaust you more than necessary. Take a deep breath and visualize being light on your feet and floating on top of the snow between the trees. Remember, you’re in control, and life doesn’t get any better than this.


FAQs About Tree Skiing


Here are a few quick answers to some common questions related to tree skiing and riding.

How do you safely ski trees?

Wearing a helmet is a must for every skier and rider at all times, but it’s even more critical in the trees. You can easily get knocked out by a branch or worse. You must also stay in control and never go above your ability level to stay safe.

What is skiing through the trees called?

Tree skiing is called several names, depending on who you ask or where you are skiing. Some call it glading or glade skiing; others stick to tree skiing or skiing trees. It’s an unreal experience, no matter what you call it.

How do you start skiing trees?

You should always take your time when skiing trees for the first time. Don’t go too fast, and always stay in control. Choosing a run with plenty of space between trees and a gentle slope will also help you get the hang of it.