- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2004

CONCORD, N.H. — The excitement of glade skiing is “the bumps and jumps and stumps” for Jim Coury. Then there’s the beauty, the feeling of adventure — and the powder. For others, it’s the cool thing to do.

Whatever the reasons, more and more skiers are getting off the groomed path and into the woods at northern New England ski areas.

Glade skiing has been around a long time, but in recent years, it has become the latest rage in the Northeast as ski areas increase their acreage for skiers looking for a new thrill, a more natural experience.

“It’s beautiful in the woods, and you get away from that groomed feeling,” says Mr. Coury, of Bartlett, N.H. “There are more kinds of terrain. It’s very exciting, the bumps and jumps and stumps.”

“If there’s snow in the woods, I’m there,” he says.

Dan Aucoin, 26, who lives in Jay, Vt., has been skiing the woods for 13 years. “There’s a certain amount of excitement venturing into the woods,” he says. “When I was a teenager, it was a thrill sneaking off into the woods to ski the deep snow. Now it’s commonplace.”

Skiers are asking for more glades, and ski areas are answering, as well as making better use of their acreage at little additional cost, according to Greg Sweetser, executive director of the Ski Maine Association. “It is beginning to be a standard trail choice at alpine ski areas throughout all of New England,” he says.

Okemo in Vermont is adding 55 acres of gladed terrain and two more trails to the 25 acres and six trails it already has.

“We’ve done that because there has been a tremendous amount of positive response from skiers and snowboarders as well,” says Pam Cruickshank of Okemo.

Sunday River in Maine has increased its gladed area in recent years by 22 percent; now 140 of its 663 acres are for glade skiing.

Sugarloaf that’s what it calls itself — in Maine, like several other areas, has opened “boundary to boundary” skiing, opening anything on the property to skiers, even if it isn’t on the trail map and is not a maintained trail.

“I think glade terrain has become more popular as extreme sports have become more popular,” says Susan Duplessis, the area’s communications director. “Skiers are looking for new challenges and I think also enjoy feeling that bit of wilderness experience when in the woods.”

Glade skiers usually are intermediate or advanced skiers, though there are wider and more gradual novice trails. Trails can range from eight to 15 feet wide, with the pitch from 25 to 50 degrees.

There is no snow-making in the glades, so “it’s predominantly a natural ski experience,” says Dyke Shaw, director of marketing and sales at Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire. “It’s a magical experience with the sunlight glistening in the trees.

“I have a 6-year-old daughter who thinks it’s the coolest thing to ski in and out among the trees.”

For the expert, it is a chance to ski on that elusive powder because it is off the groomed path — all-natural terrain with no grooming.

Mount Sunapee will be adding two new trails, and Bretton Woods, also in New Hampshire, offers about 30 percent of its terrain for glade skiing, almost all of it added in the past five years.

Jay Peak in Vermont, considered the top glade-skiing area in the region, with plenty of natural snow, has 20 to 25 gladed areas on the trail map and 10 to 12 unmaintained “clandestine” glades, known only to the most adventurous of skiers, such as Mr. Aucoin. The area tries to add a new one every year, according to Bill Stenger, Jay Peak’s president.

“We know that probably 50 percent of the people who ski here are in the woods,” Mr. Stenger said.

Even smaller areas such as Burke Mountain in Vermont have taken advantage of glade popularity, increasing their glade acreage from 50 to 85 this year.

Of course, anywhere there are trees and skiers, there is danger.

“There’s always a feeling of danger lurking on every turn,” Mr. Coury says.

Injuries happen, but usually to people who shouldn’t be in the woods, he says.

That means anyone who isn’t at least a strong intermediate skier, he explains.

Mr. Aucoin says everyone wears a helmet in the glades, but he suffered one concussion when he hit a tree. He acknowledges that he skis pretty fast, though.

Ski areas post warning signs for the most advanced glade trails, and they say injuries number no more than on regular downhill trails. “It’s a calculated risk that we take in letting people ski where they want,” Mr. Stenger says.

“Many people thought when we started this program we would see countless serious accidents. We have experienced quite the opposite.

“It’s not a speed thing; it’s a rhythm thing.”

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Ski Maine Association: www.skimaine.com or 207/761-3774.

Ski New Hampshire: www.skinh.com or 800/88SKI-NH.

Ski Vermont: www.skivermont.com or 802/223-2439.

Sugarloaf/USA: In Carrabassett Valley, Maine; www.sugarloaf.com or 800/THE-LOAF.

Sunday River: In Bethel Newry, Maine; www.sundayriver.com or 207/824-2410.

Bretton Woods: In Bretton Woods, N.H.; www.brettonwoods.com or 800/314-1752.

Okemo Mountain: In Ludlow, Vt.; www.okemo.com or 800/78-OKEMO.

Mount Sunapee: In Newbury, N.H.; www.mountsunapee.com or 603/763-2356.

Jay Peak: In Jay, Vt.; www.jaypeakresort.com or 802/988-2611.

Burke Mountain: In East Burke, Vt.; www.skiburke.com or (802/626-3322

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