Snowboarding in Trees

Want adventure? Want to ride fresh powder days after the open pitches are tracked out? Want to be able to see where you’re going on bad visibility days? The answer lies in the trees.

The main thing to remember about trees is that they will hurt if you hit one. Obvious, but true, so it makes sense to get used to riding the fall line in control before trying your luck in trees. It is always worth remembering that the best snow is often found among trees days after a storm, and as wooded runs are not as inviting to everybody they often get tracked out last. If visibility is nasty, you can be sure that it will far better in the trees than out. Trees are generally found at lower altitude than open powder slopes and therefore it is often warmer and less windy among them.

There is not much difference riding in trees than outside them – other than the trees dictate where you need to make your turns. To feel comfortable you can do this, you need be able to turn and control your speed on a red run pitch with 100% confidence – to be able to deal with the variety among the trees of slope and tree type. You need to be able to make all type of turns on both toeside and heelside and preferably at a consistent speed.

Just like driving a car you need to be able to alternate your focus of attention from immediately in front of you to further away and back again. In general it is important to look at the spaces in between the trees as opposed to the actual trees themselves. You’ll ride into the tree if you focus on it!

Stay square to the board as much as possible. The reason for this is that it is easier to ‘catch an edge’ in powder snow and you’ll “scorpion”. Rotate your head only to look down the slope for route finding.

Tactics in trees are vital. Break a tree run down into sections and before moving off plan a half dozen turns. After you have executed those six turns see if you can do another six before stopping. This will teach you rhythm, give you confidence and the second half-dozen turns allows your brain and eyes and judgment to converge. Always stop after twelve turns… if you keep going you’ll lose concentration and/or fall over. When your ability has improved try doing less pre-planned turns and take a more ‘on-the-fly’ approach until you no longer have to think about what you are doing.

To add spice and variety to tree-skiing – once you have the skill and confidence – look for more densely packed trees and some steeper pitches.

Steve Angus

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