The Glory of Glades in Mount Washington Valley

Glades. Trees. Off piste. Backcountry. No matter what you call it, skiing the trees is considered the holy grail by many. The ski areas of Mount Washington Valley offers a wide variety of glades for skiers and riders of all abilities.

Tree skiing is a great idea for lots of reasons, beyond being a heck of a lot of fun. For the terminal intermediate, it challenges you to push beyond your comfort area and try something new. For the expert and advanced skier, it gives you a much more demanding physical workout. For kids, it adds adventure and builds skills you can’t develop on the groomed stuff. And for everyone, it often lets you find powder stashes long after the crowds have scraped it away on the major thoroughfares. And it’s true what they say – aim for the spaces between the trees (not the trees) and you’ll do just fine.

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Winter 2016 so far has been the year of the snowmaker. Thanks to the powerful snowmaking systems of our local ski areas, most are approaching 80-90% open despite Mother Nature’s stinginess. So many might be surprised to discover that some areas are offering tree skiing right now.

Such was the case this weekend at Bretton Woods. Days after fresh snow had fallen, untracked snow could be found on trails such as the Enchanted Bear and Black Forest Glades in the Rosebrook Quad section of the mountain. Both offer fairly forgiving terrain for those just starting to get into the forest. Those looking for a greater challenge could drop into the narrower (and decidedly less forgiving) Roz trail, an ungroomed river run complete with some water crossings and other obstacles. Such is the beauty and surprise that comes with glades. Overall, they offered over 15 glades open this weekend, enough to keep us off-piste for the day. My quads are still burning 2 days later.

Wildcat is known for their (largely unmarked) tree skiing. It is a rite of passage for local skiers to discover glades like the legendary Thompson Brook. Or for a true backcountry experience, bring your tele skiis and ski the Wildcat Valley Trail. This is a 2-3 hour true backcountry expedition that will land you in the Prospect Farm area of Jackson, far beyond the Eagle Mountain House, so be sure to read up on this and plan accordingly.  Hit it on a powder day for best results.  It’s not for snowboarders or regular alpine skis. It’s worth it though as it is essentially the longest glade run you’ll ever experience – 3,245 ft of vertical drop if you take it from the top of Wildcat down to the village of Jackson. Put this on your bucket list.

Cranmore is where I first ventured into the trees. Some are challenging – like the Pipeline Glade. Others are a great choice for kids and first timers, like the Beech Glades off the Outta Luck/Beginner’s Luck trails. The first time you zip through this area you will feel like a rock star and your addiction to tree skiing will begin. Other great options for beginners are King Pine and Black Mountain. Last season I dropped into the trees surrounded by many an ankle-biter, nimbly ducking branches and enjoying the inevitable “woop-dee-doos” that form in the woods.

So when you check into your favorite Mount Washington Valley ski area this winter, check the ski and trail report and see what glade options are available. If you haven’t tried it, it’s time to take the trail less traveled, to paraphrase a great Granite State poet.

Kathy Bennett

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