Glade Skiing at Deer Valley Resort

If you ever skied the X-Files or Triangle Trees, you have experienced the impressive glading work performed by Deer Valley Resort over the last two decades. For those not familiar with glade skiing, it means roaming freely through sparse trees in what used to be a denser forest. Many love glade skiing for its serenity, its fun, its challenge and for its fresh powder caches that remain shaded and sheltered for weeks.


To measure the resort’s commitment to glading, I met with Chuck English, Deer Valley’s Director of Mountain Operations. “It all began twenty years ago after we built the Northside Express chairlift; we wanted to create more powder opportunities,” recalled Chuck. At that time, the Utah State Forester came to Deer Valley to evaluate the entire mountain. After dividing it into specific sections, he shared his assessment about the forest stand that, in his view, was too tight. He called the excessive treed areas “dog hair stands”, and offered to paint the standing dead, or sick trees that needed to be pulled.


This is how glading began at Deer Valley. Not only did the prescribed cut improve the health of the forest, but Chuck and his associates immediately realized that they could easily ski through the openings they had just created. The work began with an area located skier’s right off Solid Muldoon ski run, where the stand of trees was particularly thick. The next summer saw the turn of the Sunset Glade and some of the Black Forest, off of Perseverance Bowl, that needed some serious clearing too.


In subsequent summers, as the State Forester could no longer work directly with the resort, a crew of several year-round employees who knew the mountain inside-out, who were all very good skiers and chainsaw experts, was formed to continue the glading work. Over the years, that sawyer’s team evolved. At some point, the resort’s top level ski instructors were part of it and today, it’s made of a couple of snow making supervisors and snow grooming supervisors. Deer Valley’s snow grooming manager currently heads the group.


The planning begins in the spring when Chuck English and the sawyers ski around the resort to spot where more glades can be added. A considerable amount of time is also spent taking input from Ski Patrol who probably know the mountain better than anyone else. Glading is a whole summer project. The team begins to work at the beginning of June and continues until October. The workday is 10 straight, long hours, four days a week, as work sites are generally difficult to access.


Sawyers do more than just glading, though. They’re also responsible for cutting the lift line when a new chairlift is installed, they may be called to cut or maintain ski trails, clear trees and branches fallen by windstorms and also perform maintenance on existing glades, just to keep up with new growth. The process is quite involved, demands a sound knowledge of the forest and of the skiing terrain.


Sawyers need to keep a meaningful variety of trees of all ages. Remarks English: “Once trees aren’t too tight, they tend to do very well and flourish. Glading is an opportunity to remove trees infested with parasites and protect healthy ones from contagion. Trees are one of our best mountain amenities!”


There is a conscious effort to identify different areas with the best glading potential. Each Deer Valley mountain has its prime spots; for example, Empire has the X-Files and Anchor Trees. Lady Morgan has Centennial Trees, Flagstaff has Ontario Bowl, Bald Mountain has Sunset Glade, Triangle Trees, and so on. Deer Valley’s sawyers try to keep most of their work above 8,000 feet. On steep and less accessible areas, the wood is left on the ground, cut into rounds small enough to lay flat, creating habitats for many animals. The dry fuel is removed to minimize fire hazard and, where accessible, the timber is pulled out and used for firewood in the Deer Valley lodges.


Unlike most western ski areas, Deer Valley Resort is located on private land. Glading wouldn’t be as easy to perform if the resort were on National Forest land. It would be possible, but would take significantly more time due to administrative rules and regulations. The sawyers have gotten skilled at knowing how to open things up. “Glading is as much as an art as it is a technique”, said Chuck. “A glade that is too open promotes moguls, something you want to avoid. Straight-line clearing isn’t desirable either. A ‘maze’ pattern is preferable to create a much more diverse and interesting skiing experience.”


While glade skiing generally requires more skills than open-terrain, Deer Valley wants more of its intermediate skiers to enjoy tree skiing. This is where some areas like Sunset Glade or the X-Files get a lot of its sawyers’ attention. They are on moderate grade and can be designed to be very user friendly and accessible to most skiers skills.


One great benefit of Deer Valley’s 930 acres of glade skiing is that they act as a reservoir of powder, as snow stays fresh longer in these sheltered areas. In addition, tight glades retain most of the snow on tree branches and requires twice as much snowfall to accumulate as much cover as that of open meadows.


In the fall, sawyers are asked by ski instructors and eager skiers wanting to know where the brand-new powder stashes will be found. Very little information percolates out of these early-season queries, as a shroud of mystery traditionally hang upon any new “powder lode.” Eventually, the secret gets out. As Chuck concludes, “our Mountain Hosts do a great job broadcasting these secrets, especially those assigned to the expert mountain tour.”

Deer Valley’s Steeps and Stashes


Secrets Revealed

If you believe you know Deer Valley Resort inside-out, you might be missing out on a whole lot of fun! To make sure that no stone is left unturned in the 2,026 skiable acres that Deer Valley has to offer, there is now a simple solution within your reach: enroll into Deer Valley Resort’s new ski school clinic “Steeps and Stashes,” and you’ll get a clear insider view into the myriad of secrets and untold ski runs Deer Valley has in store for its visiting guests.


Call this, skiing off the beaten path, taking the trails less traveled or exploring a new world of ski possibilities, but when you enroll in this eye-opening program you’ll discover, as I did, that almost half of Deer Valley acreage is tree skiing! I would never have guessed it! Tree skiing isn’t just about the fun of slaloming through aspen and evergreen trees, but it’s also penetrating into a micro-climate where the snow stays better and for much longer, as it generally remains sheltered from the sun, the wind, and also because most skiers who aren’t in the know will seldom venture there on their own.

For visitors and locals alike

“Knowledge is power” and the more you know about a ski resort, the more emotionally invested you become in its assets and the more valuable it becomes to you, your friends and your family. Knowing a resort well, is not just for the out-of-town visitor, but for locals too, who often believe they know Deer Valley like the back of their hand while, in reality, what they know only represents the tip of the iceberg. This was just as true for me when I signed up for the program. As an almost 30 year Park City resident, I didn’t suspect that I could learn so much about new, fun spots on that mountain. All it took was a couple of days to turn that paradigm on its head.


Great skiing starts with a good group

We first gathered on Saturday morning in the 2002 Room in the Snow Park Lodge, where we met other participants and our ski instructors. At 9 a.m. sharp, we found ourselves at the base of Carpenter Express chairlift. We rode the chairlift together and after taking us down “Big Stick,” the instructors broke us up into groups of similar levels and affinities.


We ended up with three groups. I don’t know exactly what the other groups did that morning, but Thor, our instructor took us up to the top of Bald Mountain and since there was a fresh serving of new powder from the day before, he led us down into Sunset Glade, an expansive aspen grove that I’ve never been too familiar with. To my delight, I discovered many lines and stashes that I didn’t even suspect existed.

We then proceeded to Quincy Express chairlift, we zoomed down Bandana ski run and set up shop around Empire Express chairlift. We first tested the powder around Anchor Trees. I liked it a lot and migrated for more tree skiing to the X-Files, where we took two great consecutive runs. All along, Thor gave us some valuable tips aimed at helping us stay nimble and weave smoothly around the giant evergreens.

After the trees, the steep!


Soon, it was time to move from these secret stashes to the steep component of the program. We peaked over the intimidating cornice that lines up Daly Bowl, wondering if we’d muster the audacity to let us drop down into the steep slope below. Thor led us by sheer example and then, the peer pressure pulled the trigger; one after the other, we all took the plunge and boy, were we proud we did it! 


After a communal lunch at Silver Lake Lodge, we continued to explore the infinite forest that seem to line every single run Deer Valley has to offer. While I had already experienced many of our morning runs, most of the afternoon paths Thor took us to were either totally new to me or brought a brand new twist to some old spots that I had explored before. Deer Valley has so many “powder stashes” that I wouldn’t want to write a comprehensive guide about them; it would take almost forever to list them all!


The March afternoon sun combined with a relentless rhythm soon began to weigh on our legs and it was time to go back to Snow Park Lodge where we were shown some instruction videos that came in quite handy, as our experience of the day was still fresh in our minds and made us relate perfectly to the situations we all had encountered hours earlier.

Day Two: Moguls on the Menu

Sunday came a bit too early as we had little time to adapt from the spring time-change, losing one hour of sleep in the process, but this didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for this second day of “Steeps and Stashes.” I was invited to move to another group, led by John, another Deer Valley instructor. While the previous day had been centered on powder and steep terrain, it was now time to perfect our mogul technique on a variety of trails ranging from Empire Bowl, all the way over to Mayflower Bowl.

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I used to like bumps when I was much younger and today, as my body has lost some of its flexibility, I carefully avoid confronting their destabilizing nature on almost any ski slope. This time, John found the right words and added some effective tips to reconcile me with that wavy and uneven terrain called moguls.

“Shopping for Turns” anyone?

That morning, John kept on discouraging us to endlessly “shop for turns,” an expression that means waiting forever for the perfect spot, the right conditions and the good moment to initiate a turn. This also means that when we do this, we eventually run out of real estate and end up on the edge of the run, still “looking.”


Instead, he showed us how to “ski the zipper,” the holy grail of mogul skiing. If this terminology sounds a little odd, just remember that the “zipper line” means that great bump skiers go straight down the mountain, allowing their knees to flex over the moguls instead of turning around them. That’s what is called the zipper line. It’s named that way because skiers remain within a narrow corridor that’s only as wide as their shoulders are broad.

Seeing is believing

What a bumpy day this Sunday ended up being! We did easy mogul trails in the morning and John gradually increased the gradient throughout the day. Eventually he took us just under the Red Cloud chairlift where we were filmed on video, doing our very best to “ski the zipper.” Just before noon, John stopped us at the Deer Valley video cabin theater, right off the edge of Success ski run, where we were given an opportunity to marvel at our own exploits along with those of our teammates.The whole session was commented in details by John, questions were asked and the whole video was seen at least three times before we were finally satisfied.

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After lunch, the session continued, mostly under the mogul theme, sometime on easy terrain, sometimes on steeper runs and by 4 p.m. we were all a little tired but extremely happy that we had completed a wonderful two-day ski clinic. We learned a lot about Deer Valley Resort’s boundless powder and tree skiing. We tame our innate fears on Daly Bowl, reconciled ourselves with the secrets of mogul skiing and picked up so many new skills that we can’t wait to do it over again very soon!


Lose yourself in Ontario Bowl and Woods!

Every time my skiing takes me around Flagstaff and Empire Canyon, I always make a point, on my way back to Silver Lake and Snow Park, to ski Ontario Bowl or the adjacent woods. I find it a great alternative to the Ontario or Hidden Treasure runs that are widely used by all the other skiers. If I decide to ski the Bowl, I will rarely hike to its very top from the entrance gate located off the Ontario run, but rather catch the traverse found on skier’s right, at the top of Hidden Treasure. This access gives me all the choices I want while saving me both time and effort.

Like most skiers, I often traverse all the way to the main bowl that offers the most open terrain and then ski down to the bottom of the Ontario run before catching the Judge lift, or why not, riding again Quincy for some additional laps. There are however two notable alternatives to the main bowl and one of them is the expansive wooded area, called “DT’s trees”, that stands to the skier’s left and can be accessed from the beginning of the access traverse. This section, where the trees are gladed well enough to allow turns in most directions, is quite sheltered, keeps the snow fresh longer and offers an infinite array of runs that are never the same. The only trick is to maintain a diagonal direction so as not to “run of out trees,” something that can be easily mastered after just a few descents.

My favorite line however is located on the edge of the trees and on the ridge portion that separates the trees from the bowl. While this run may get bumpy at times (a price to pay for its popularity) it’s always fun and varied as its grade changes all along the way, keeping the itinerary interesting. It ends up by funneling into the trees and lands somewhere above the Quincy chair. So if you didn’t know the Ontario Bowl and its multiple options, make sure to keep them in mind on your way back from Flagstaff and Empire; soon you’ll consider it your “dessert” too, after a long and fun-packed ski day!

Sunshine in Empire Canyon

Empire  Canyon has always been one of my favourite places to work. If it’s not snowing, then the sun is out and you get a spectacular view from 9,570 feet.

There’s also a couple of aspen glades that have a great contrast against that blue sky, like Zebra trees. The name says it all…

Caroline Crandall sneaks a line through the aspens