uphill skiing gaining traction

By Jim Stanford on November 15, 2012

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Russell Scott skins in the Gros Ventres. With advances in gear, interest in earning one’s turns has never been higher.

Earlier this week the Denver Post reported about the growing popularity of uphill travel at ski resorts. Skinning has become such a part of mountain-town life that most Colorado resorts have adopted policies tolerating or even encouraging it.

Aspen Skiing Co., for instance, has climbing routes and policies for its four mountains. The Post reports:

Two years ago, uphill skiing was a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” with the few skinning skiers keeping a low profile as they climbed in the dark. Today, resort chieftains such as Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s Tim and Ethan Mueller and Breckenridge’s Pat Campbell are regulars among their hill’s climbing cadre.

And the no-policy uphill approach is becoming a thing of the past. Nearly every resort has recently tweaked its uphill travel rules to address things like dog poop, hours, parking, closures, reflective outerwear and lights.

Naturally, skiers might wonder whether Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will catch up with the trend, especially given the brouhaha following the arrest of Roland Fleck in 2011. The hard-headed Fleck, then 78, insisted on skinning up JHMR to watch his daughter compete in a ski race, only to be sledded down in cuffs.

Snow King has an uphill policy to help keep skinners and their pooches out of harm’s way. Uphill travel at the King has long been a cherished pastime.

Given the terrain and traffic at JHMR, it could be difficult to designate an uphill route, especially to the summit. Perhaps Apres Vous would be suitable. And maybe one day uphill skinning will become a marketing point for Snow King.

Update: JHMR has not reconsidered its stance. Safety concerns and operational logistics, including avalanche hazard reduction, make uphill travel more or less a nonstarter, spokeswoman Anna Cole said.

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Posted under Economy, Environment, Ski Resorts, Sports

7 Comments so far

  1. Brad November 15, 2012 5:53 pm

    “JHMR has not reconsidered its stance…”.

    Not surprised at all. But, as long as I’ve lived here, I assumed (or was told) that uphill skiing was fine, that the lifts are there for convenience. Pay for play. It’s public land and if one wants to work for it, ski uphill. That is until the Fleck incident. Shows what I knew.

  2. Yukon Cornelius November 16, 2012 7:58 am

    Not surprised at this either. Can’t say I am angry at JHMR for this though. My pass barely gets scanned on the lower mountain, it’d be impossible to track uphill traffic loading up Sublette or Thunder where they don’t even have scanners. Jim, I agree that AV might be the spot but after a couple traverses you could be lapping Thunder without paying a dime. JHMR wants your money and that is all they want.

  3. Justin November 16, 2012 9:00 am

    Wyoming has more mountains than you could hike in a lifetime. Ski resorts take up a very small part of the potential terrain. It seems to me that people who want to hike at a ski resort are there because of the development and avalanche mitigation, both of which cost money to maintain. Paying to hike up a ski resort would be fine as long as the approach is designated and it isn’t occupied until the resort’s avalanche control is done.

  4. MikeV November 16, 2012 10:16 am

    I rarely ski at the village anymore and enjoy skinning up almost as much as skiing down, but I have to say this is one of the very few (if only) times I side with the JHMR. If they do allow uphill travel, they will have to start scanning passes on the upper mtn which is something no one really wants. Not to mention the safety factor.

    Also, while the JHMR is on public land, they LEASE (i.e. pay money) that land from the Forest Service. And while they are required to operate it according to FS regulations, JHMR does get to make A LOT of the decisions on how they use that land. One MAJOR misconception most people have is that the ski area closes the first weekend of April because the FS tells them to. JHMR leases that land year round. They close when they do because it doesn’t make sense financially to stay open beyond that date.

    We have a nearly unlimited amount of backcountry terrain here. If JHMR doesn’t want to allow uphill travel, there are more than enough other options.

  5. Chad November 16, 2012 6:00 pm

    So CO embraces it, and JHMR arrests people. Time to reassess the progressive spectrum of ski resorts.

    No gray area? Minimal charge for skinners, perhaps? Maybe provide incentive to use the restaurants once up there? Also, I wouldnt be surprised if the mountain has already been contemplating scanners on thunder & sublette. They provide heretofore unavailable user data.

    I guess I dont understand the adversarial/hardline approach. Randonee race seems silly in this light. Akin to a gay pride parade in Tehran. Glad I could finish with maximum hyperbole.

  6. Bernie November 20, 2012 7:26 am

    Dumb policy. They can make it work by limiting certain areas for uphill traffic and limiting hours and it can all be done safely.

    JHMR has the right to do as they please since they lease the property and they need to make money to pay for the operation but it’s just a silly policy.

  7. Professor November 28, 2012 11:06 am

    As a groomer at a large CO resort, I wish people would just pay attention and be safer. We have people crashing into winch cables at night after they ski through obvious flashing closure signs. Unfortunately, this is undoubtably going to result in some sort of uphill policy. Yay if people want to ski cord, but don’t be dumb.

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