Snowboarding: How To Master Riding In Tree Runs & Gladed Slopes

How to ride tree runs

Some of my previous housemates in Whistler enjoying the tree runs 🙂

Today’s reader question:

I need help with tree runs. I find it hard to go fast and when I do go fast, I can’t turn in time to avoid trees and obstacles in the run. Help!

Okay, first let me say… tree runs are hard. Going fast and riding well in a packed tree run is a very advanced skill, so you shouldn’t feel bad if you have difficulty going fast in trees.

I’ve roughly covered tree runs in a previous blog on powder riding, but let’s go into more detail today. Here’s some tips for you:

1) No two tree runs are the same – start with the easy runs

The difficulty of a tree run is based on how steep and how packed together the tree runs are. You want to start off with mellow tree runs that have widely spaced out trees.

The more widely spaced out the trees, the more time you have to react and initiate turns and the more space you have to turn. It’s all about gradual progression, there’s no reason you need to start out on insanely hard tree runs.

Really tight tree runs give you very little margin for error and your turns have to be sharp and fast. You want to start out with those widely spaced runs first and slowly ease yourself into the tight runs as you get more confident and advance your turning skills.

2) Work on your turning

If you want to ride fast, packed tree runs, you need to be able to turn on a dime. This means you need the ability to do quick turns down a steep slope.

Find a nice steep blue run and practice turning. You need to be able to turn quickly and sharply, which means your turning has to be good enough to match a fairly advanced rider.

The best way to do this is to go with a friend and watch each other turning. You’ll know when you aren’t doing quick, sharp turns by watching whether you skid down the slope when turning.

No skidding. You want to be using your board’s edge to turn and change direction quickly without skidding downhill when you turn. You don’t have time to be doing sloppy skid turns in fast, packed tree runs, so you should practice this first on steep blue runs.

3) Always plan a few steps ahead

With tree runs you need to know where your next turn is coming. Always, always, always be looking ahead and know where your next couple turns will be. The tighter the tree run, the less time you have to think, so you need to plan a few turns ahead to avoid running into trees.

I always suggest doing a trial run in each tree run first, before doing a fast run. This way you know where the turn are and you’ll have a better idea of which route you want to take and where you want to turn.

Take a slow lap first and feel free to stop often and figure out which path you want to take on your next lap. Don’t forget that a wrong turn in a tree run can send you way off course and taking a slow lap helps you to avoid running into any unintended cliff drops and nasty obstacles.

4) The golden rule – never look directly at the trees

Always look at the path you want to go, never the trees. Your body turns where you look. Simply put, if you look at trees, your body will turn towards the tree and you’ll get up close and personal with the tree when you run straight into it.

Hope you found these tips helpful and let me know if you need more advice!

– Jed

ps: Always try to ride trees with a friend and stay in sight of each other. Powder stashes at the bottom of tree trunks can be death traps if you get stuck in them alone.

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  1. Glenn E. Bourne says:

    I really like how this article is written; it’s easy to read and the use of list is very effective. How I wish there was an article like this back in the days when I was mastering Whistler Blackcomb’s glade runs.

    The tree runs can be considered as black diamond meaning which means that they are for advanced skiers so if you’re a beginner it’s advisable to keep your helmet in place, you’ve worn your body armor and you’re ready to put your skills to the test.

  2. Hey, is it okay to reuse wax? I know they make those “wax chips” or what ever its called… Can I just reuse the wax I scrape off my board? Thanks for the help man. I read your posts every day and am learning tons! Happy shredding!

  3. Hi there,
    Looking to replace my board this year, and what I love most is riding the glades.
    Any board recommendations for tight tree runs and glades? The board should be good in the powder but also a good performer on groomers (ie East coast Canada. )


    • I’d probably lean towards something like a Lib Tech TRS B2 CTX or a YES ‘The Greats’. Both very good all-mountain type boards that ride well in powder, trees and groomers.

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