CAMDEN – During a weekday morning this month, several expert skiers were after Camden Snow Bowl Director Jeff Kuller. Two of the glades were closed, and they wanted in.
Kuller wanted to show them off to a pair of visitors after a recent snowstorm. He knew what he’d find, and he did: soft, white, light, dry powder, the likes of which Kuller says he’s skied out west.
“Groomed trails don’t do it for me,” said Kuller, the Snow Bowl’s director for six years.
The joy of glade skiing, weaving through knee-deep powder among the trees, is in high demand in New England right now.
In Maine, the supply of glades has never been more apparent, with Saddleback’s 40-acre section of glades that thrilled backcountry fans when it opened last winter. And the first part of Sugarloaf’s 655-acre glade project opened this winter with nearly 200 acres of steep chutes, cascading drops, even cliffs.
The town-owned Snow Bowl, along the coast, may be diminutive by comparison — 850 feet of vertical compared with 2,000 at the western Maine mountains — but the love of tree skiing is just as big.
“A lot of people like adventure skiing. I’ve skied all over the world. I appreciate the opportunity to do something a little more adventurous in my own backyard,” Kuller said. “We are so risk adverse in our society. Glades are a little bit of wild. Personally, I think we need more of that in our world.”
Last fall, three new glades were added to the four that were at the Snow Bowl: the Graves, Connie’s Light and Whale Belly, a smallish glade with a steep pitch down into the “belly” of the forest.
After one of this winter’s big snowstorms, Ryan Swanson dumped into the fresh snow at Connie’s Light and enjoyed first tracks as he weaved around the trees.
“They’re good new glades,” said the expert skier from Trenton.
The Graves offers a terrain park with forest-like features such as shaved logs that can be used for tricks and jumps. The other glades have more natural elements, including rocks, tree trunks and boulders.
Whereas Sugarloaf’s massive new glades give quick glances to panoramic views of the Bigelow range, Camden’s tinier pockets of wooded trails are more cozy, even intimate.
Rather than Alpine softwoods, the coastal forest is covered by birch, maple, oak and beech trees.
It promises an entirely different experience.
Max Citron rode the piles of snow three weeks ago in the Mizzen Sail glade before going down in a steep area.
The snowboarder had never skied the Camden glades and was pulled in by the deep, light powder.
“It’s not quite as steep or rocky or dangerous as out west. But it has a nice outcropping,” Citron said.
He was followed in by 20-something terrain park enthusiasts Jeremiah Johnson of Athens and Eric Rainey of Rockland.
The two left the ski area’s terrain park in search of the glades, with their natural elements.
Johnson and Rainey followed the ski patrol around the mountain looking for natural rails and boxes. They dropped into the Graves hooting and yelling.
“I’ve skied at this place since I was 8,” said Rainey.
Twenty years later, the freestyle skier said he wasn’t bored with his small-town ski area.
But the mountain’s ski patrollers know the truth.
“I don’t know how the mountain lasted this long without glades,” said ski patroller Steve Pixley.
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: