Last month the New York Times ran a story called “Uphill Skiing: Subtract Crowds and Lift Lines, Add Cardio.” In the piece, Nick Sargent, president of SnowSports Industries America, said “Skinning and ski touring is the fastest-growing segment in the industry…“The numbers are small, but they’re growing exponentially.” The piece goes on to discuss Aspen’s apparent plan to make itself into the “uphill recreation destination of North America,” with plenty of designated uphill routes originating right in downtown Aspen. We’ve even covered Bluebird Backcountry, a human-powered, no-lifts resort that will open in the next few years in central Colorado (For reference, here is a list of Colorado ski areas and their policies regarding uphill trail access).
Some resorts, it seems, are looking at ways to generate revenue from the burgeoning interest in backcountry skiing among more skiers. In October, Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin announced they’d be charging $30 for a season pass to skin or splitboard up the resort’s trails, citing that they’d given out 10,000 passes in recent years to skiers looking to avoid lifts and that there’s a lot of work involved in maintaining that access. This practice—charging for uphill access, is growing, from Colorado to Maine.
Other resorts allow uphill access during off-hours. Some ban the practice entirely.
The resorts that charge skiers to skin on the property they manage often point out that the skiers may not be using lifts, but they are often using groomed trails, are looked after by ski patrol in the event of an accident, and generally enjoy amenities provided for paying lift users while on the resort property. It’s also worth pointing out that Nordic skiers are used to paying for trail access without lifts. It’s standard practice and costs a heck of a lot more to ski groomed xc trails than $30 per season.
Some skiers who chafe at the idea of a resort charging point out that if a resort is on public lands, they have no right to charge skiers for skinning up trails. The skiers are simply accessing lands they have a right to be on.
As the Times article illustrates, this is likely to become more of a concern for ski resorts and skiers in coming years, as the practice continues to grow in popularity.
As an incentive for conversation, we’re giving away a copy of Adventure Journal to one commenter chosen at random. You can choose any issue we have in stock, and if you’re already a subscriber we can extend your sub by an issue, send you an issue you don’t have, or give one to a friend. Just include your email when you post your comment so we can get in touch.