This blog was brought to us by Veronica Whitney, editor of El Montas, the Hispanic newspaper in Eagle and Garfield counties.
When we think about skiing, we usually think downhill. Speed, turns, bumps, tree skiing, powder maybe some tricks on the way down. But, looking at some slopes these days, it seems skiing is about going uphill as well.
If you want to understand what we mean by this, check the autobahn of skiers skinning up every weekend in Tiehack, a section of Buttermilk in Aspen. Or the after-work and full moon crowds skinning up Sunlight Mountain near Glenwood Springs. In January we met a dozen people up at the patrol headquarters who had brought wine and beer to celebrate their summit under a full moon and pretty comfortable night skiing temperatures.
At Buttermilk, uphill skiers share the seating area with snowboarders while they prepare their equipment to go downhill taking off skins and adding some layers. We joked the other day, soon they will need their own little lodge.
From the chairlift you can see them. Patiently, working their way up with their AT (Alpine Touring) skis and a small backpack. While you are comfortably sitting on the new Tiehack chairlift (now Aspen offers a fast lift there as well!), they are enjoying the sport in another way. A way that is very popular not only in Europe, but is growing in the United States as well.
Ski mountaineering races (also known as skimo races) are becoming more popular here. This year, the skimo race during the Teva Winter Games in early February filled up in three categories offered: beginners, advanced and elite.
It is rewarding and fun, because you get a good workout and in the end you earn your turns down the slopes!
Some mountains let skiers go up at any time of the day (for example, Snowmass, Buttermilk, Sunlight) while others like Aspen Mountain (Ajax) you must be past the bottom of the Ajax Express chair by 9 a.m. or you can wait till the lifts close. So check the mountain’s rules that you are planning to skin up beforehand.
All resorts will ask uphill skiers to stay on designated routes and stay to side of trail.
We just ask they be aware of snowcats and snowmobile traffic, avoid stopping and standing in blind areas, says Jeff Hanle, spokesman for the Aspen Skiing Company.
Some advise: bring a change of clothes so you can change before heading downhill or an extra layer so you dont freeze after sweating so much on the uphill.
So if you are heading to the hills this season, you might want to give it a try. Maybe after a great day on the slopes, you can try to skin up the mountain. Even if its half way up, youll be rewarded by being outdoors as a beautiful spring sunset hits the mountains around you. After that, you will feel you have earned your aprs ski guaranteed.