Uphill Resort Skiing: What you need to know and where you need to go

Uphill skiing, or skinning, at ski resorts is becoming increasingly popular.

You'll often see skiers heading uphill before the lifts open at ski areas from Aspen to Okemo. It can be a safe, quick way to get exercise, practice your backcountry skills, and knock out a lap of skiing.

Take yourself up that mountain. Photo: Kalen Emsley/Unsplash

A lot of ski resorts are now accommodating uphill skiing,commonly referred to as skinning, because you travel uphill with synthetic skins on the bottom of your skis, but since it’s relatively new, the rules can be fuzzy. And because you're still doing something potentially hazardous within the resort boundaries, you have to play by the rules.

Here's what you need to know.

Get out there. Photo: Jon Flobrant

Know where you can go

Not all ski areas allow uphill travel. The United States Ski Mountaineering Association (USSMA) maintains a list of resorts that allow it, and what their policies are, but it's always a good idea to double check with the resort itself.

Know who you have to talk to and if you need a pass

A lot of resorts want to keep tabs on how many people are heading up. Some places, like Alpental, ask you to check in with ski patrol, and some ask you to get a free skinning pass, so they know who is out on the hill.

Some, like Sugarloaf, require either a season pass, or a $10 uphill day pass.

There isn’t much more satisfying than using your own two feet (and some skins and skis) to get up the hill. Photo: Brent Olson/ Unsplash

Know what time you can ski

Depending on the mountain, uphill policy might be to just allow skinning before operating hours, or it might be only during times when the mountain is open.

Some hills will let you skin before they get started for the season, but not when they're turning lifts.

Know your route

In the name of safety, to avoid skier collisions with other skiers, snow guns, or grooming equipment, many resorts have designated uphill routes. Some, like Breckenridge, will have them posted on their websites, but asking for a current update is another good reason to go talk to ski patrol.

It’s all downhill from here. Photo: Asoggetti/Unsplash

Know what you need

You'll ideally be on light skis with alpine touring or telemark bindings.It's wise to bring a light, so you can be seen by things like snowcats and snowmobiles, especially if you're skinning after hours.
Some places might want you to have avalanche gear. And it's not a bad idea to bring extra layers and a little med kit, in case something goes wrong, since you might not be within ski patrol's jurisdiction.

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