Words: Sam Petri
There's a funny thing happening under the chairlifts: people are skiing uphill. Currently, at least 40 major resorts have official uphill travel policies that allow skiers to skin uphill before, during and after operating hours. Some resort policies even allow you to bring your dog. Has the whole ski world gone crazy? Doesn't anyone eat pizza and drink beer, anymore? Why all the physical effort next to perfectly good public ski transportation?
Some people just like the exercise. Other people want a safe place to tour alone before or after work, and the resort provides that space. Either way, it's less a "if you build it, they will come" model, more of a "we need to accommodate these people" reaction to a growing trend.
In most cases, but not always, uphill access is free--although it is often limited access during resort operating hours, and you typically have to check in at the base area before heading up. Every resort is different, and you should check with your area before attempting to ascend the mountain. Remember to wear your spandex, headlamp, and ultra-light elf boots so that downhill skiers can spot you on the trail and spray you with snow as they go mach-ing by.
Colorado's Arapahoe Basin is one resort that has updated its policy to accommodate uphill travel. Although skiers are officially limited to ascending to about mid-mountain during operating hours, it is still popular, A-Basin vice president and chief operating officer Alan Henceroth said.
"While for several years there has been steady growth in uphill travel at A-Basin, last season we saw a doubling or tripling of use," Henceroth said. "With the increased use, we decided to review our policy and we a felt a few changes made good sense. We see 20-50 uphill users per day. As of this morning, we had given out 567 Uphill Access Passes [this season]."
In Vermont, Bromley, Burke, Jay Peak, Mad River Glen, Mount Snow, Smuggler's Notch, Stowe, Stratton, and Sugarbush all have polices, but Magic Mountain might have the best one.
"Magic is all about the sport of skiing and riding," the resort says on its website. "We celebrate those who take it seriously, want to be challenged and are willing to test their limits. Those who climb our hill and ski down may not be providing direct revenue for us, but we also know that they are the type of folks who will probably stop in for a bevie at the bar. Maybe a bite to eat, and tell others what a good time they had at Magic."
Amen, Magic, amen.
This season, at Jackson, Wyoming's, Snow King Resort, if you wanted to get to the top you had to ski uphill, as the summit chair's bull wheel was broken until just recently. No one seemed to care, though, as most people hike to ski The King, anyway. For that bunch, having a ski pass is passé.
Here are some resort policies:
Along with Arapahoe Basin, in Colorado, Aspen, Breckenridge, Copper, Crested Butte, Keystone, Loveland, Winter Park, and Vail all have official uphill travel policies.
In Maine, Camden Snow Bowl, Saddleback, and Sugarloaf allow you to ski uphill.
Wachusett Mountain, a little over an hour west of Boston, Mass., allows early-morning ascents.
In Montana, Whitefish Resort allows people to skin up different routes depending on the time.
In Live Free Or Die New Hampshire, Loon, Pats Peak, Wildcat, and Waterville Valley all have uphill policies, although some are more restrictive than others.
Of the 250 resorts in the state of New York, only Whiteface has an official policy, allowing you to skin up before the lifts load.
In Oregon, Mount Bachelor, Mount Hood Meadows, and Timberline have policies that allow skiers to go uphill.
You can ski uphill in Utah at Alta early season, and at Brighton most of the time, as long as you're doing it in a reasonable way, sticking to the side of the trail.
At Alpental, you have to check in with the ski patrol before you skin. You can also ski uphill at Crystal Mountain, Mission Ridge, and Steven's Pass.
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