Why ski trees?

"That's where the best snow is," said Eric Friedman of [R222R, Mad River Glen].

"Several reasons for that. Wind deposits snow in the woods and it doesn't scour off, so people ventured there for that. Second, it's challenging, interesting, fun - all of those things.

"Mad River has had a long long tradition of tree skiing long before it became fashionable. When other ski areas considered it verboten, Mad River didn't think twice about it. Tree skiing is what differentiates us from what the rest of the ski world is about," Friedman said.

Beyond almost total reliance on natural snow, which Friedman said is far superior to that shot from guns, Mad River has 2,000 feet of perfect pitch, no run out.

"If you want to ski double black for 2,000 feet you can do it here. You don't' have to do it, but you can," he said.

Friedman contends that as skiing changed from its rough and ready beginnings in the 1930s to the more staid ‘60s, with snowmaking and grooming, it became boring and homogenized.

"You could close your eyes and be anywhere," he said.

"Well, when they finished boring the skiers, they tried to make it exciting again. Tree skiing is something people wanted, and resorts started to cater to that. It's something we've always done."

Friedman said that Mad River long ago learned lessons of glade management that other areas will learn in years ahead.

He said Mad River does glade work with hand tools, no chain saws or other power equipment. Four to six work days each fall attract 40 volunteers each.

"It's not just about cutting trees. We have created regeneration zones where we allow brush to grow up and create wind breaks. One of our classic trails, Lower Glade, didn't have a tree on it 10 years ago. They all died and fell over. We have created regeneration zones with tree islands, a mix of young and old trees, with a canopy over the whole thing, so when the older trees die there are younger trees to replace them," Friedman said.

"Some areas cut all the young trees. They're going to have problem with ice storms, wind storms taking out the older trees and not having anything to replace them.

"Many resorts are looking at it in classic ski industry fashion. They're taking a short-term view, not a long-term view. Some glades that are being cut now are going to be sad to see in 30 to 40 years. They won't have glades; they're going to have open trails and erosion and lots of problems they're not thinking about now.

"We learned that already," Friedman said.

Check out the glades at Mad River, [R395R, Smugglers' Notch], [R435R, Sugarbush], [R192R, Jay Peak], [R429R, Stowe], [R91R, Burke], [R66R, Bolton Valley], [R343R, Saddleback], and [R245R, Mont Sutton], if trees are your thing.