The opinions presented are based upon my personal observations as a skier, a cutter of woods lines, and a person with two forestry degrees.
I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry from the University of New Hampshire (1981), and followed by a Master of Science degree in the same from the University of Vermont (1986). Professionally I have done little work in forestry, other than seasonal work land surveying and as a research technician.
In the 1990's my knowledge of forestry, in particular of silviculture (the art and science of growing a forest), started giving me cause for concern for the long-term health and sutainability of ski area forests in the Northeast. The signs include trail trees were dying without replacements, thinning trail edges, and increasing width of woods lines. On trails and woods lines that were changing the most, the ability of these trails to retain natural snow cover diminished. While small landslides are common on steep slopes where trees have been removed, I noted evidence of numerous small slides scattered here and there on these trails.
I began wondering whether there was a connection between the capacity of the trail system forest to regenerate itself, and natural snow quality for skiing and riding. Today I am convinced there is - a robust regenerative base is good for retention of natural snow. There are attendant environmental and economic benefits as well.
I have been cutting and maintaining woods lines in central Vermont for 20+ years, and have coordinated and led work crews at Mad River Glen for over ten years. Witnessing signs of declines in ski area tree regeneration, I decided to start applying what I knew about how trees grow to ski trail establishment and maintenance. These efforts have occurred both in the woods with line cutting and maintenance, and on official trails with establishing "regeneration zones" and release of desireable trees on trail edges.
After ten years I have found there is a lot more art than science. There has been plenty or trial and error, and I do not pretend to fully understand what are the best management practices. Mad River Glen has been the testing ground for this blend of ski area management and forest stewardship. Successful techniques have been found, but please recognize this is work-in-progress.
The support and contributions of Mad River Glen Management and the Ski Patrol have been integral in this work. Without management's financial support, and the work of the Ski Patrol maintaining ropes and signage during the winter months, none of this work would have born fruit. At the direction of management, annual paid mowing crews now look for and save promising regeneration. Finally the work was physically done by volunteer work crews composed of skiers and riders, like these folks pictured to the right. Without their sweat and support for my decisions, there would be little progress. Thank you all.