By James Lummis
A few years ago I started a brief telemark career. Really it was never going to be a career but I was hoping to add another dimension to my skiing. I wanted to maybe try side area skiing, or possibly a ski tour option. What I really enjoyed was the ability to go uphill. What I really didn’t enjoy about this new set up was falling over the handlebars, at a high velocity and getting beat up.
The one backcountry lap I did was at Pioneer, a ski ghost area just south of Crested Butte on Cement Creek. We read of Pioneer in a great book entitled Powder Ghost Towns. My wife and ski partner Kristen and I successfully located the old ski area, the first in Colorado to be served by an aerial lift and easily found the uphill trail. Prior skiers had broken the trail and the trek up was a nice walk. We were only planning on one lap and started around 1:30 and we got to the top of the trail about 45 minutes later, warmed up and ready to transition off the climbing skins and point the boards downhill. A split board snowboarder came up behind us, put his board back together and with a wave floated down the old lift line in deep, spring softened snow. It was our turn.
The next 90 minutes ended my telemark experiment. First, you can do the math, 45 minutes up, 90 minutes down. How does that happen? Pick your favorite ski lift and think how long it takes to do a lap from lift line back to lift line. Most laps I can think of last 2/3 of the lap time riding the lift and the remaining 1/3 skiing down. Maybe half and half; never less time up than doing down.
Second, I have never fallen or crashed so many times on one run. I was not able to string more than two turns together in the thick, heavy, ever-increasingly cold snow before I went right over the tips of my skis. Wow, a humbling experience to say the least and my last day on tele gear.
I love the endorphins, I love seeing the steep pitch and love watching downhill skiers from a different perspective. Fortunately many Colorado Ski Country areas have Uphill ski routes for your enjoyment. Some of them are as follows:
Powderhorn Mountain Resort provides a complimentary uphill access pass and has two routes up for your enjoyment available during lift operating hours. See more at http://www.powderhorn.com/mountain/uphill-policy
Ski Cooper also as two routes open 9:00AM to 5:00PM for uphill travel and also requires a complimentary uphill access pass. More information at http://skicooper.com/uphill-access/
The four mountains of Aspen, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk all have uphill travel options – one of my favorites is the Tiehack side of Buttermilk. All uphill travel policies for these four mountains are at https://www.aspensnowmass.com/while-you-are-here/see-all-guides/uphilling-guide
Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Sunlight also have good uphill travel cultures with the requirement that you are heading downhill when the lifts begin to spin.
If you need a change of muscle groups, perspective, or just want a good sweat consider uphill travel at your favorite Colorado Ski Country resort. My only advice if not a telemark skier, use a All-Terrain (AT) set up which allows for free heal when going up and a locked in heel for your alpine turns on the way back down the mountain. You will thank me when you are not headed directly for the medicine cabinet or hot tub for pain relief.