So pretty, so scary.
Words: Aston Reynolds
The forest is a scary place. It’s dark, dense, and you can’t see more than a hundred feet in any direction.
It’s even more confusing on a snowboard.
And no less dangerous.
Gallows humor at winter resorts means talking about what happens in the trees. And the bars, but that’s a different story. To clear the trees at old Swiss resorts they would cut a few down in the fall and wait for spring to chop the ones with blood on them.
Like all sports, snowboarding is a mental game. That’s especially true in the trees.
Control thy fear
The only way to control your fear at first is to go slow. But not too slow because it’s easy to get stuck when you fall down in the trees. Then there are these things called tree wells. People will tell you to stay calm if you fall into one. Then the next thing you read is about some guy who fell into a tree well and suffocated.
Scared yet? You should be. The trees are scary.
So how do people go fast in the trees without getting Bonoed?
Pick your line
Look as far ahead as you can.
The trick is to know exactly how far you can go without thinking about what’s right in front of you. Focus on the farthest point you can see that you know you can get to. The second step is to trust your brain to process everything in your peripheral vision.
You need focus and concentration to ski or ride fast through the trees without getting jacked. The second you focus on that scary tree in your periphery, that’s when it reaches out and breaks you.
What if you freak?
Everything’s going well. You’re looking through the trees, not at them. Going fast, feeling good. And then something happens in your brain. The gravity of the situation hits you like an angry pro-ho who settled for you last night and woke up with buyer’s remorse. Fear is the enemy of concentration and focus. Despite our best efforts, snowboarders get jacked when fear strikes.
What to do when fear strikes?
Fear in the trees is just like normal fear. It’s caused by having to make a decision, in this case really fast, and not knowing what to do. Should you throw the brakes on and hope for the best? Should you stay the course and hope for the best? Hard to say. I’m not there. But there are tricks for slowing down quickly in the trees.
The first is to just run into one. If you’re not going that fast you’ll probably just bounce off and be alright.
The second thing you can do is jump up right before you hit the tree and point the bottom of your board at the trees. I’ve never seen skiers do this, but I assume it’s possible. You’ll either hit the tree square and absorb the impact with your knees, or you’ll bounce off the side and get a face full of snow.
There’s fast and then there’s fassst
There’s a big difference between going fast enough to have fun and going so fassst you can’t afford to make a mistake without serious consequences. Know your limits. Pick your line. Don’t freak out. Don’t go fast enough to hurt yourself if you do freak out and end up hitting a tree.