By Morgan Tilton
More snow resorts are permitting pre-chairlift crowds to ski uphill—does that sound bizarre?
Uphilling—also called “skinning”—is cross-country travel on skis or a splitboard with the goal of climbing up and going down (Note: ski touring is traversing outside of ski area boundaries). The activity has long been a part of European ski culture. Now, at least 70 mountains in North America have published uphill skiing policies, according to a 2016 Bloomberg article.
Our European neighbors can’t have all the fun, North American vacationers and locals also want to snag their workout before the mountain machinery starts to drum. According to Snowsports Industries America, close to two million skiers and snowboarders head into non-lift served backcountry ease season, and AT equipment sales increased five percent overall in both snow sports and outdoor channels by the end of the 2015 season.
Each resort establishes their own policies regarding uphill travel in order to maintain safety within resort operations such as grooming and avalanche control.
Which resorts allow uphilling and what are the rules? Wear a headlamp, don reflective materials and stay toward the side of the trail. Here are seven resorts in the West who are welcoming uphillers on their slopes.
Uphill travel is permitted on the Park City base side along a designated route from the bottom of First Time Lift, up Homerun (stay climbers left) and to the Angle Station. Enjoy the workout from 6–8:30 a.m., December 15th to closing day.
All four mountains allow uphilling at Aspen including Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. At Aspen Mountain, follow America’s Uphill course: start up the Little Nell run to Bingo Slot, Spar Gulch, left into Deer Park and onto Silver Bell. Uphilling is allowed outside of lift-operated hours (meaning not between the general hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). At Snowmass, uphill travel is allowed during operational hours, and Adams Avenue is the only run that’s closed to uphill traffic.
Good news, post-season uphill access (April 8 through May 25, generally) is allowed inside Telluride Ski Resort boundaries, aside from select closed areas. During the regular season, uphill also is permitted on ski trails in the Lift 10 Sunshine pod, except for Sundance Ski Trail. Uphill skiers are welcome between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Earn your turns at Crested Butte, before 9 a.m. and after 4:30 p.m., on allowed groomed trails—with the exception of one all-day route, the designated base to Umbrella Bar at Ten Peaks and the top of Red Lady Lift. Prohibited trails include International, Buckley and Championship all day, and Upper Keystone and Triangle in the afternoon and evenings (Note: you’ll first need to pick up an Uphill Use Ticket or Peak Plus Season Pass). Trail safety also suggests you stay in the center of these trails for best visibility to groomers.
Get your workout in at Breckenridge outside of operating hours, after 5 p.m. and before 8:30 a.m. The mountain has designated routes at Peak 7, Peak 8, Peak 9 and Peak 10. The mountain also asks that uphillers stay toward the center of the trail, away from machinery, off all posted CLOSED trails, off Black Diamond terrain and terrain park features.
Enjoy uphill travel at Vail during and after operations, staying towards the side of the trail. For recommendations on uphill travel, grooming status and suggested routes, call the Trails Hotline at 970-754-3049.
Guests can enjoy skinning at Beaver Creek during and post operational hours. It is recommended that uphillers stay to the side of trail in good visibility, and to avoid all areas where machinery is operated. For recommendations, groomer status and help call the Trails Hotline at 970-754-5907.
*Please complete an avalanche safety course, study the snowpack and check the updated avalanche and weather conditions before venturing into the backcountry.
About the Author, Morgan Tilton
An award-winning journalist, Morgan Tilton is a Bronze medalist and two-time Finalist of the 2015 North American Travel Journalists Association Awards Competition for her travel writing. She covers adventure travel and outdoor industry news with work featured in Outside, Teton Gravity Research, SUP Magazine, Backpacker, TransWorld Snowboarding, 5280 (Denver’s city magazine), and CoBiz among others. Raised in Colorado’s stunning San Juan Mountains, she’s a mountain-ultra-trail runner and snowboarder that loves Bluegrass shows, avocados and trucker hats. Her most recent summit: she and four paddlers made the first SUP descent of Utah’s wild Escalante River. Follow Morgan’s trail @motilton and morgantilton.com.
Born in Texas, but raised in the beautiful Salt Lake Valley, I've always known the mountains of Utah to be home. After pursuing duel marketing and business degrees in the Great White North of Logan, Utah, I re-settled near downtown Salt Lake City where I can enjoy the best of both worlds: city life and world-class mountain ranges. You can always find me exploring Salt Lake's foodie scene, skiing at Alta, rock climbing or hiking in the breathtaking Wasatch mountains.