The trees. Not the dark, haunted woods of Grimm fairy tales, but the powder-filled stashes of dreams. Places where the snow stays cold and light for days, and only the tracks of those who know mar the perfect white carpet. Yes, trees. For skiers and snowboarders who know, the nooks and crannies of the treed spaces between a ski area’s marked runs hold bliss and joy and untracked snow. While most of the best glades and tree runs are kept secret by locals, a knowledge shared only amongst friends, we’re happy to let you in on a few of our favorite stashes.
But before we spill the beans, some words of caution are in order. Trees are hard. If you hit one, it will hurt. Because of this, you're probably going to want to wear a helmet, and you should always ski with a buddy, just in case something happens. You should also keep in mind our favorite piece of advice: "Don't look at the trees, look at the spaces." Looking at where you want to go rather than at objects you don't want to hit is the best advice for riding in the trees we've ever gotten.
You'll also need to be at least an intermediate skier or snowboarder, and you'll want to keep it slow until you get confident that your ability is suitable for the terrain. Also, some ski areas, like Taos, keep parts of their treed terrain closed, so be respectful and obey all signs and closures. That being said, being able to ski in the areas between the runs opens up whole new parts of a mountain and adds a ton of fun to your day. And then there's the snow, which always seems better in the trees. Here are some of our favorite zones.
Angel Fire boasts four named glades on their trail map. They're all good, but our favorite is Shane's Glade. Accessed from the Southwest Flyer quad lift, they have just the right amount of pitch, and the trees are nice and open.
The aspen glades between Sidewinder and Breathless off of the Mother lift hold some nice turns on powder days. With a steeper pitch, they're best for advanced skiers and riders.
Red River's Backside delivers stellar aspen glades that encompass almost the entire side of this zone. Bisected by named runs, it's easy to dip in and out of the trees when the mood takes you, which it will on stormy days when conditions in the woods are the best.
There are plenty of nooks and crannies at this resort, which is a must visit during weekday powder days when even the named runs remain empty. Our choice? The hidden line between Double Eagle and Diablo.
Tons of great tree skiing and snowboarding options exist at this unheralded ski area for those who are willing to explore. Start your adventure by dropping off of the Smart Chicken run above the Gamble Chutes.
The open peak of Ski Apache is a great place for powder skiing, but for trees, head to the zone between Game Trail and Upper Deep Freeze.
Ski Santa Fe:
Sometimes there are no secrets when it comes to great tree runs. That's why you'll find both North and South Burn on the trail map, where sparsely spaced trees make these zones the best on the mountain for powder turns.
While the recent clearing of Wild West Glades at Taos has created the most buzz at this venerable New Mexico resort, at least when it comes to tree skiing, we still like hiking out the Highline Ridge and the North Face, an overlooked corner of Taos that hides fresh snow long after other zones have been tracked out.