Seeking before-work turns, social cardio or some of the meditative pleasures of backcountry skiing without the dangers of avalanches and route finding, Aspenites have been ascending all four resorts under their own power for decades. Uphill skiing participation continues to grow exponentially each season, and resorts around the country—including Aspen Snowmass—saw an even larger increase in seasonlong, uphill travel at the onset of the pandemic.
That’s why this season, for the first time, Aspen Skiing Company will require the purchase (and armband display) of an uphill pass to skin on any of its four resorts. “With uphilling becoming so popular, we had to take a step to maintain and manage it,” says SkiCo’s Director of Public Relations Jeff Hanle. “The funds will go to create new routes, improve existing routes and improve and grow the program. We want to create a sustainable uphill program for the long term.”
The $69 annual fee supports the maintenance and management of uphilling at Aspen Snowmass, with $10 going to Mountain Rescue Aspen. Skiing is permitted between 5AM and 10:30PM daily on designated, signed routes, except on Aspen Mountain, where uphill traffic is not allowed during operating hours.
User-friendly equipment has contributed to the popularity of the sport. High-performance, lightweight and comfortable alpine touring equipment made specifically for resort skiing (think boots that weigh less than a kilo, skis that make cross-country skis seem heavy and super-low-profile bindings) is an investment that will make uphilling infinitely more fun. And proper apparel that offers range of motion, temperature and moisture regulation and protection from the elements can make even skinning the 3,267 feet up Aspen Mountain a little easier.
One aspect of resort skinning that’s crucial to its longevity is rule abiding. Users must remember that skinning up a resort is a privilege and one that’s easily revoked (many major resorts around the West prohibit uphill travel, period). Even on designated routes, stay aware of what’s ahead and behind you and proactively give a wide berth to snowmobiles and snow cats. SkiCo occasionally calls for temporary closures for safety reasons, business levels and snow mitigation. Check the Aspen Snowmass website, social media outlets or the Aspen Snowmass app.
Photography by: From top: Catherine Aeppel and Jesse Hoffman/Photos courtesy of Aspen Skiing Company.