The two commonly put-forward explanations for spiral growth of tree trunks related to stress-loading and damage-tolerance.
The stress-loading explanation states that spiral-grained trees flex more than straight-grained trees before they break. Flexibility under stress-loading is useful in areas with heavy snowfall (as the tree can flex until the snow falls off) and in areas with heavy wind (as the tree can flex in response to wind-buffeting instead of breaking).
The damage-tolerance explanation states that in trees with straight grain, the leaves (or needles, etc) have water delivered to them, via the xylem, from the roots on the same side of the trunk. In spiral-grained trees with several years of growth, water and nutrients from a given root can be transported to branches on all sides of the trunk. Therefore in spiral-grained trees, if one section of the tree's root system is damaged, it does not necessarily mean that a corresponding part of the canopy will have to die off.
Kubler (1991) discusses both the stress-loading and damage-tolerance explanations in much more detail, if you're interested in further reading.