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Vermont Chainsaw Massacre

posted: 01/22/2003
by John Dostal

"Don't Ask. Don't Tell." That's the unofficial policy Eastern resorts seem to have toward the growing wave of locals carefully hand-clearing unmarked glades. Skiers feel it's been great for Eastern tree runs, and, they say, when done right, it's fine for the forest as well.

Just don't get too crazy with the hand tools, says Mad River local Jay Appleton, or you could be loving your stash to death. Appleton coordinates Mad River's volunteer trail-clearing program and is on a mission to educate a hard-to-reach population of impromptu glade designers through his website,

"Woods lines are almost always maintained using loppers and hand saws," Appleton says. "The young trees tend to be cut from the line with the brush. And the young trees are the future. Given enough cutting, woods lines become wider and start to lose their wildness." That's what happened to Mad River's well-known Paradise run. The once-snaky shot is now an open glade.

It's too soon to tell if Appleton's personal jihad will have an influence, but things have gotten out of control in the past. An illegal chainsaw gash on Smugglers' Notch was cut through old-growth forest, prompting management to place a $1,000 bounty on the perp's head: Not only did he drop old growth, but he cleared trees on a steep southwest face...that doesn't hold snow.

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