Trail Cutting and Maintenance Guidelines
Glades and Woods Cutting Practices
This section describes field practices for establishing and
maintaining glades and woods lines.
Northern Hardwood Species Hierarchy
Tree species can be organized into three broad groups for the purpose
of skiing and snowboarding: Highly Favored, Somewhat Favored, and Not
Favored. The factors that determine the species ranking are:
- Longevity - Trees that live the longest are best.
- Growth Habit - Some trees and shrubs branch and grow in ways that
inhibit human passage on skis and boards.
- Leaf Senescence - Evergreen trees, by virtue they do not drop their needles,
catch and hold more snow than deciduous trees.
- Wildlife Value - Some species important food sources for wildlife.
- Aesthestics - Aesthetics can enhance the ski/ride experience, and some tree
species are more attractive to the eye than others.
All species in the Not Favored catagory can be cut without much
consideration other than correct identification. The choice of whether
to cut individuals in the Favored species categories involves weighing the
functions listed below, as well as location, form, and vigor. The ranking
below is based upon experience, but should not be taken strictly as there
is a lot of judgement and luck involved.
||Difficult to regenerate except in the open, or on disturbed soil.
Gnarled and dramatic at old age.
||More common than yellow birch, aesthetically pleasing, but vunerable to ice storms.
||Excellent snow fence function, soft foliage, breaks up sight lines and enhances
||Very common and so more can be cut. Well-formed individuals are highly
favored. Long lived and regenerates easily.
||Bright red fruit is important to wildife. Shrubby growth habit not ideal.
Good tree for trail edges.
||Somewhat favored only because Balsam Fir seems to hold up better to ski/ride
||Beech nuts are a very important food source for black bear. Root sprouts, pointy
winter buds, and thin stiff branches on young trees degrade its
snowsports value. It is best to avoid areas with a predominance of beech.
||Grows in groups, important for holding soil in place. Small size and multi-stem
growth habit place it at the lower end of Somewhat Favored.
||Short lived, prolific sprouter, obstructs lines, vunerable to ice storms, and
out-competes other more desireable tree species. A food source
for deer and moose. Cut upon identification.
||Extremely prolific understory woody shrub that obstructs lines.
Birds enjoy its fruit. Cut upon identification.
||As a note, hemlock may grow in groves at low elevations. It is long lived and
very slow growing. Little snow reaches the ground underneath, and deer seek
shelter under hemlock in harsh winters. Hemlock groves should be avoided.
Spruce-Fir Species Equality
At upper elevations, all species are of Highly Favored because of the
forest's vunerability to damage. The exception is
hobblebush, which can be cut at anytime. Spruce-fir's
even-aged growth regime reduces cutting decisions to binary (yes/no)
based upon line location.
At mid and lower elevations, there is more flexibility as the forest is more resilient. In general, Paper
Birch and Yellow Birch are more favored because they are not dominant
and provide visual contrast. Balsam Fir, Red Spruce, and White Spruce
are equally favored. Being tactilly softer than spruce, Balsam Fir is better
for skiing and riding through. The choices on which individuals to cut in
spruce-fir forests are driven by line location and soil stability, and to a
lesser extent, form.
Choosing Between Individuals to Cut
The simple rule is to cut all hobblebush and stripped maple from a line. Many
times a skiable/rideable line will result. In designated islands however, little
should be cut, with the possible exception of an occasional robust stripped
maple in order to remove its seed source.
Form and vitality are used to decide which individuals to cut among favored
species. Form refers to how a tree has grown. Is the tree straight? Does it have
a healthy crown? Has it been damaged by weather, disease, or ski/snowboard edges?
Vitality refers to the vigor of an individual. Forest quality hinges upon the gene pool,
and some individual trees grow faster and stronger than others. Individuals that
are well formed and are growing vigorously should be favored over those that are
having a tough time.
Finally the rhythm of the line will dictate choices. Trees that are located right
where people will turn will eventually be killed. Trees should only be left solo if they
are strong enough to withstand ski/board edge cuts and human collisions. Otherwise
young trees should be left in groups as islands where the outer trees protect the
Power tools such as chainsaws are necessary tools of the trade, but with
the technology comes the potental for overcutting. Therefore new glades should
be clearly marked prior to cutting with chainsaws. Trees to be cut should be
painted, and islands clearly delineated with flagging. It is always better to
be conservative and undercut because one can always return the following year
and cut a little more based upon how the glade skied.
Hand tools are generally better for woods line cutting and maintenance. This
is because less can be cut by hand and so the impacts are minimized. Sometimes
chainsaws are needed to buck up large downed trees, but otherwise one is taking
the woods out of the woods line by cutting overstory trees, which is only possible
with chainsaws. Appropriate hand tools are: loppers, buck saws, and large
two-handed scythes. Scythes are very effective for mowing hobblebush, saplings,
Cutting Tips for Glades and Woods Lines
Here is a list of do's, don't's, tips, and tricks:
- Always carry a first aid kit oriented toward blood loss control,
fracture stabilization, and bee sting allergies.
- Always keep tools sharp, and carry a few spare parts.
- Duct tape serves both tool repair and human repair (first aid) purposes.
- Hand scythes require periodic sharpening during a work day.
- Line Layout:
- Always cut downhill in order to keep the line in the fall line. One can cut
in small sections uphill while still progressing downhill overall.
- Minimize or eliminate double fall line sections.
- Use fir and spruce branches to break up sight lines. Not being able to see
a long way down a line increases excitment.
- If a section becomes constricted and narrow, follow it with a wide section
for people to gain control, relax and let 'em go.
- Search for breaks in cliff bands so people do not get perched, unwilling to jump off.
Do not offer big air without an alternate route(s): People over 35 years of age, or
parents of children, rarely jump off cliffs.
- Cut out all the hobblebush and stripped maple first - that may be all that
- It is always better to undercut a new line, ski it for a season, and return to
- Sometimes a very desireable tree impedes the ski rhythm of a woods line.
Remember the number one rule is the line must ski/ride well and consider
cutting it. Often there will be another tree of equal quality nearby.
- Cut all stems close to the ground for safety reasons - Eliminate "pungie
- Remove branches by cutting as close to the stem as possible. Partial limbs
sticking out present a hazard and look threatening.
- Hardwood branches will survive when cut a distance from the stem. When
softwood branches, especially on younger trees, are partially limbed, the
remaining portion will die in a year or so. Therefore remove the entire branch
on softwoods, or none at all.
- Cliff take-off zones must be very neatly cut so people are not compromised at
take off. The landing zones should be relatively wide, open, free of hazards,
and sloped downhill.
- Slash Disposal:
- Dice up limbs and cut brush so it will lie close to the ground and
not require piling.
- Pile slash in holes, depressions, and against small drops to smooth
out the line.
- Pile slash on the uphill side of hazards (rocks, downed trees) so
people will ride right up and over them.
- Locate brush piles well off the line so they do not have to be moved later.
- Do not pile brush in stream beds. Stream beds should be kept free
flowing to minimize erosion risk.