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How To Ski Trees | 12 Tips To Improve Your Tree Skiing

Once you have mastered the basics of skiing on-piste, it’s time to step your game up and learn how to ski in the trees. Mastering tree skiing will open up so much new terrain and will turn any resort into a playground.

Tree skiing is simply the best. My dreams are filled with face shots in waist deep powder while I cruise through the trees. It is great when it is snowing or when there is bad visibility because the trees help give you much better definition and depth perception on the white snow. It’s the most exhilarating type of skiing as its completely driven by impulse. You can’t stand at the top of the hill and plan your line. Once you are in the trees you have to be fluid, retain speed, all while making split second decisions and dodging obstacles. Skiing in the trees will greatly improve your technical skiing and your overall confidence on the slopes.


Top Tips for Improving your Tree Skiing


  1. Ski With A Buddy

Skiing is always best with friends. Grab a ski buddy before you go into the trees and make sure to always stay in each other’s range of vision or in ear shot. Skiing trees isn’t inherently dangerous but there are a few more hazards you should be aware of. If you happen to get injured or buried in a tree well, your friend will be there to have your back and help out in a dangerous situation. Skiing with a friend that is a better skier than you is always the fastest way to improve and you can follow their lines through the trees.


How to ski in trees, tree skiing in Whistler


  1. Start On Moguls

The techniques and style of mogul skiing is very similar to what works best in the trees. Before you head into tight trees, make sure you are comfortable skiing at different speeds through moguls. Tree skiing is more direct and requires tight and fast parallel turns. Try good ‘skier’ moguls and rougher ‘snow-boarder’ bumps and try to get comfortable on everything. Practice keeping your body facing down the fall line (downhill) and ensure it is just your legs and hips doing the work. When skiing in the trees you need to keep your head and eyes downhill and cannot turn with your body.


  1. Find Spaced Glades

I understand that It can sometimes feel scary and overwhelming when you first begin skiing in the trees. If you are nervous I would recommend to start on spaced glades to build confidence. Having lots of space will help you get comfortable with the trees whizzing past you. Begin to focus less on the trees and more on your next turns. When I was learning I found it helpful to think of the trees like my windshield wipers that would always be moving by me and the gaps in the trees as the road I needed to follow.


How to ski in trees, tree skiing in Whistler
Some nice spaced Glades on Whistler Mountain


  1. Try Side Trails and Side Hits

Side trails and hits are a great way of getting familiar with skiing through the trees without committing to a full on tree run. While you are skiing on groomers sneak off to the side and follow some of the already paved trails through the trees. Practice anticipating and absorbing bumps by bending your knees and don’t be afraid to get airborne if you have a clear landing. Turning through trees while experiencing bumps will only help to improve your balance and skiing.


  1. Stop & Regroup

Don’t feel like you’re a bad tree skier if you always have to stop. It is important that you go at your own pace. I always stop when I am tree skiing, this is totally normal. Trees grow randomly and weren’t perfectly placed for skiers to enjoy. If you can’t spot a reasonable line where you can turn then stop, regroup, traverse, and find a line that is going to allow you to link some turns together.


How to ski in trees, tree skiing in Whistler
Stopping to find the right line


  1. Anticipation

Always look ahead downhill and plan your next few turns. Look for gaps and spaces in the trees and imagine how you can fit through those gaps. You need to be opportunistic and react. This mix of anticipation and reaction is the bread and butter of skiing trees and is what makes it an exciting experience every time.


  1. Forget About Technique

At first, don’t worry about technique. Skiing trees is all about having fun, finding fresh snow and challenging yourself. No one can see you when you are skiing in the trees so do whatever it takes to get around those trees! Your on-piste technique will begin to shine through as you get more comfortable in the trees.


How to ski in trees, tree skiing in Whistler


  1. Always wear goggles and a helmet

When I’m screaming through the trees I always find myself getting hit in the goggles helmet and snapping branches with my body. It is all part of the excitement. However, if your goggles are up you risk doing damage to your eyes. A helmet is pretty self-explanatory and in my opinion a mandatory piece of equipment for all skiers.


  1. Break a few branches

Don’t be afraid to ski right into small branches. I’m always smashing branches with my body and pushing them out of the way. If you are skiing in an area with evergreen trees the branches are quite soft and push away quite easily. I’m not telling you to deliberately run into trees, but if a dreamy line involves body checking a branch or two, don’t be afraid to go for it.


How to ski in trees, tree skiing in Whistler


  1. Always Be In Control

Good Control, accuracy and line choice are key to enjoying yourself in the trees. Always ski at a speed at which you can control. Being out of control on-piste is dangerous, being out of control in the trees is EVEN MORE DANGEROUS. Don’t try to be a hero on the hill and always ski to your abilities. Skiers who injure themselves or hit trees typically do so because they were trying to push themselves to hard/fast too quickly.


  1. Pole Straps Off

I always forget to do this one myself. Keep your pole straps off when skiing trees. The probability of catching a pole in a tree is much higher when you are skiing trees. If you have some speed and your wrist is in a pole strap your arm could get caught injuring your hand and shoulder.


How to ski in trees, tree skiing in Whistler
Taking my straps off before shredding some trees


  1. Avoid Tree Wells

Remember to keep your distance from tree wells at all costs. Tree wells are soft impressions in the snow that surround the bases of trees. You can become buried deep in tree wells and powder can fall on you completely immersing you in the snow. Don’t walk or ski near the bases of trees to avoid the odd chance that you may fall into a tree well.


How to ski in trees, tree skiing in Whistler

Skiing trees is complete bliss. It takes time to become a confident and competent tree skier. Take your time and work your way into tree skiing. You are going to absolutely love it and the doors it opens on the mountain.


Let me know if you have any tree skiing questions in the comments below.

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