Eastern resorts expand gladed terrain.
By Matt McDonald | Photos courtesy of Sugarloaf
Bushwhacking for turns defines East Coast off-trail skiing. The first glades opened on Vermont’s Mount Mansfield in the 1930s—long before the chairlifts went in. And marked glades appeared on many a trail map right through the 1970s. But then the dark days of personal injury liability in the 1980s stymied much of Northeastern tree skiing culture. On some hills it was a ticket-clipping offense to ski in the trees. Jay Peak and Stowe famously flouted that trend—and attracted better skiers because of it. Now, many more Right Coast resorts have caught up.
Vermont’s Magic Mountain clears their glades in September, when flannel-clad volunteers board the lifts with chainsaws, weed whackers, and machetes. The work crews scout new glades and cut deadfall and branches. “People are sick of the crowds and want to carve their own trail—literally,” says Magic’s Geoff Hatheway. “They want their own stash.”
Last year, New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods opened a T-bar servicing its Mount Stickney Glades. Skiers link turns on an easy slope of widely spaced hardwoods that drops 400 vertical feet. Okemo debuts a new mapped zone dubbed Everglade this winter that rolls gently 500 vertical feet through open evergreens. It’s ideal terrain for new tree skiers to dabble without losing control of their speed. Gore Mountain in New York opens Boreas Glades, 1,300 vertical feet in the tight fir and balsam stands on Burnt Ridge, plus shorter, low-angle intro glades at Little Gore. To the north, Whiteface freshly cut a still-unnamed 25-degree, 1,500-foot glade on Lookout Mountain. Across the water at Vermont’s Jay Peak, a much-anticipated expansion of the West Bowl area could add more vintage East Coast tree runs.
Meanwhile, the Sugarloaf 2020 project turns the Maine resort into the east’s largest ski area with a 655-acre expansion—much of it gladed—in Brackett Basin and the Burnt Mountain area. Brackett is already open, although its remote pillow lines, cliffs, and woods are reserved for skiers ready to hike from the King Pine lift. Still, not everyone is happy with the public opening, including Sugarloaf local Joel Osgood: “There’s limited challenging terrain there,” he says. But, notes Osgood, as skiers flock to the new terrain, his favorite trees on the main mountain stay fresh longer.
Back at Magic, volunteers gather after a day’s work. The buzz of chainsaws is gone. Burgers sizzle and beer cans crack. Winter drifts closer. When it arrives, they’ll keep to themselves.
From the Early Winter 2013 issue.