Tree Skiing Techniques: Know Thyself and Get a Helmet

October 11, 2013 Katie Burrell

Tree skiing can be summed up by that expression: “if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”

Trees, Please. Photo: Cedric Bernardini
Trees, please. Photo: Cedric Bernardini

Everybody has skied into a tree before; if you haven’t, you’re not going fast enough. In the heli ski world, the trees are great for a couple of reasons: they are ever-so-sinfully gladed, home to the deepest powder stashes and most importantly, can prevent down days. Therefore, it is integral that you know how to shred between the trees. Here are a few of Last Frontier Heliskiing’s hot pointers on tree skiing techniques:

1. Those friendly looking deciduous tree branches are harder than they appear. When taken directly to the face, they can actually be quite painful, in both a physical and emotional way. Much like the feeling of when a child really hurts you accidentally. Hot pointer: duck.

Slash, Whoop, Low Five. Photo: Dave Silver
Slash, whoop, low five. Photo: Dave Silver

2. Don’t look where you don’t want to go. Scientists are always talking about the power of the human brain. Whatever you focus on, manifests. Thus, the stare to scream to smash sequence is one that can be avoided by: not directly pointing your skis at a tree. But what do I know? I’ve never skied into a tree because I couldn’t stop staring at the tree and thinking about how much it would hurt if I skied into the tree and whether or not I would have to take a few days off after doing an accidental front flip over the tree and lying on my back feeling acute humiliation beneath the tree. That’s never happened.

3. Breakdowns have never gotten anyone, anywhere. Christopher Columbus didn’t throw his telescope overboard when he realized there were already people living on the land he was supposed to “discover.” He charged ahead. Having a breakdown in the forest and throwing your pole into a tree well will ultimately end in feeling the most alone you have ever felt.  

Oh, Hey Buddy! Don't Get Mad, Get Even! Photo: Dave Silver
Oh, hey buddy! Don’t get mad, get even! Photo: Dave Silver

4. You’re better than you think you are. Even if you’re not actually better than you think you are, if there is one place that you have to ski with confidence, it’s in the trees. So, while you are veiled by the woods, we will allow for unabashed egomania. Just lock it up when you get out of the trees.

5. Just because you can’t see anyone, doesn’t mean that they can’t hear you. Do not take the moment when you catch up with your partner (in what seems to be a secluded area) to talk about how unbearable you find the rest of the group. Do not have a very personal argument about the intimacies of your relationship with your husband/wife (everyone will end up knowing the things that only one other person in the world should know).

Did I Mention &Quot;Deepest&Quot;? Photo: Dave Silver
Did I mention “deepest”? Photo: Dave Silver

6. The tree will always win. Crashing into a tree every now and again is not bad for you; in fact, it will make you stronger and more humble. Typically, humans are not very good at letting the natural environment “win” (see: climate change, etc). But in the case of trying to “beat the tree,” you will lose every time. Even up against a tiny tree, that looks like it will bend under your powerful ski-star weight, you will ultimately be turned upside down and embarrassed in front of your friends. So get a helmet, know your place and chill.

Most importantly, falling alone is not good. Similarly to when you are walking on the sidewalk and slip and fall and nobody sees it and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry…tree-ski bails are the same, but more serious. So lose the pride and keep your eyes on each other. Friends don’t let friends fall in tree wells.