Photo Credit: Aspen Snowmass
You know what they say - you gotta get up to get down - and with the boom we’ve seen in backcountry skiing across the state the last two seasons, it’s safe to say that going uphill is here to say. And frankly, earning your turns make them feel that much sweeter.
Resort uphill is a fantastic way to work on your skinning technique, nail those kickturns, and get a good ol’ fashion workout in. Here’s a comprehensive list of resorts to help you get your uphill fix and all the details you need to know before you head out.
An important note before you head out - it is your responsibility to be aware if the mountain is closed to uphill access during avalanche control, snowmaking, race training, or other special activities. Always add your ski area’s patrol phone number into your contacts in case of an emergency. You should also be sure that you’re aware of all machinery on the mountain - snowcats, winch cats, snowmobiles - and make yourself as visible as possible to them. Wear bright colors, and if it’s dark out wear a headlamp and flash to any oncoming machines.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
Earn your turns to ski the Legend. Purchase a pass for $79 which will get you an uphill access pass and armband and season long access. Already an A-Basin passholder? Awesome, you already have a free uphill pass that you can pickup at any ticket window between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Be sure to wear your armband while skinning or hiking and carry your uphill access pass with you as well.
Looking to head out before the mountain opens? Use any of the open frontside green or blue routes below mid-mountain/ Black Mountain Lodge. You can access the summit outside operational hours on open routes. Access above Black Mountain Lodge is only via open routes and is not allowed after 8:30 a.m. During operational hours, uphill is restricted to the eastern edge of High Noon between the Base Area and Black Mountain Lodge. The East Wall, Beavers and Steep Gullies, and all terrain parks, are always closed outside operational hours for skinning - so save those turns for the chair. You will not be able to head above Black Mountain Lodge after 8:30 a.m. Yes, you can bring your four legged friend but only after operational hours.
If you’re really looking for a sweat, they even have an early morning Rando Race series that you can register for here.
Aspen, Highlands, Buttermilk, Snowmass - whatever vibe you’re looking for or workout you want, uphill is allowed on each of the four mountains. Each mountain has their own uphill policy so be sure to know before you go. Designated trails are marked by orange signs, and in some cases, marked with rope to designate a lane. No matter where you head, be sure your pass is visible at all times.
Uphillers, stay on designated, signed routes during all operating hours. Uphilling is permitted from 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and not allowed from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. as the lifts are spinning. Be sure to leave your four-legged friends at home no matter the operating hours. If you’re not feeling the ski or ride down, feel free to download during the Silver Queen Gondola at no charge.
Ah yes, the legendary Highlands. If you’re not already planning on hiking the bowl during operating hours, uphilling is allowed from 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. along designated uphill routes. Your four legged pal is even allowed to join you from before 7:45 a.m. and after 4:45 p.m. Head up Jerome Bowl to Park Avenue, to Memory Lane to the Merry-Go-Round Restaurant. If you arrive at the Restaurant prior to 8:30 a.m., feel free to keep on chugging, otherwise it’s time to turn around.
Uphilling is allowed seven days a week on Main Buttermilk, Tiehack, and West on designated routes from 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Same deal as Highlands - yes to dogs but only after operating hours Follow the orange disks across Columbine, through the woods and cross Midway Avenue to Ridge Trail to reach the top of main Buttermilk or head up Eagle Hill to Ptarmigan for Tiehack, or up Teaser to Bridge and finish up on Ridge Trail for West.
For the most variety of routes, Snowmass is the place to be. Either start from the Base Village or the base of Two Creeks anytime between 5 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. The Two Creeks route follows Cascade to the top of Funnel and around Causeway to the Elk Camp Restaurant. To reach the High Alpine Restaurant, follow Fanny Hill to Lower Green Cabin and finish on Coffee Pot. Follow Base Village to Funnel to reach the Elk Camp Restaurant, or sneak your way up to Sam’s Knob at the top of the Burn.
Loveland Ski Area
If you’ve never stopped at Loveland, uphill at the Basin is a great way to check out this iconic I-70 resort. If you’re interested, be sure to grab your Uphill Access Card, which must be visible at all times when on the mountain. Follow designated routes to the top of Ptarmigan anytime before 8 a.m. and after 4:30 p.m.What’s important to know here is the base area sign that will not only tell you if uphill access is open and also inform you if there’s any winch cat operations or ongoing avalanche mitigation.
Steamboat allows uphill access on designated routes before the hours of 9 a.m. and after 4:30 p.m. daily - please note that currently uphill is closed and that dogs are never allowed on the mountain. An uphill access armband is required and Ikon and Steamboat pass holders can purchase a pass for $29, while non pass holders can grab one for $49. A portion of the Uphill Pass proceeds will be donated to Routt County Search and Rescue. In order to get the armband, you must watch a video found on their uphill page as well as sign a waiver. With your armband visible, head up designated routes along Preview, Short Cut, Vogue, Sitz, Jess’ Cut-Off, and Heavenly Daze.
Winter Park offers one of the most adventurous uphill options for skiers looking to earn their turns. Pre-purchase your uphill pass for $25 and pick up your armband at the resort. The cool part? All proceeds benefit Grand Country Search & Rescue, Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment Dog Team, and Friends of Berthoud Pass. Be sure to wear your armband whenever heading up the mountain and stick to trails that were open that day or day before in any of the Four Territories. A few things to note on trails during operating hours: uphill is not allowed on Lower Parkway and Parkway Chute in Winter Park, all double black diamonds and Trestle, Runaway, Sluice Box and Pine Cliffs in Mary Jane, Village Way and Parry’s Peak unless Panoramic Express is open in Parsenn Bowl, and all trails in Vasquez Ridge. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out their Intro to Uphill lesson.
Ski Cooper is all about putting in the vert, stating “uphill access is an activity that Ski Cooper permits in the interest of promoting the enjoyment of the Ski Area and the National Forest.” If you’re planning on skinning, sign up for the pass online and get your uphill card loaded on to your Cooper Card. Your Cooper Card will be scanned at the “Port of Entry” and be sure to carry it with you in case patrol wants to check your pass. With your reflective gear on, pass in pocket, set out up looker’s left of Trail’s End for a frontside ascent, looker’s left of Ambush to head up the backside or Looker’s right Low Road to Motherlode Flats. Routes will be marked by yellow and blue signs. From 4 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., uphill access is allowed on all trails except those that are closed or being groomed. No matter the time of day, keep your four legged friend at home - they’ll be there to greet you once you're back.
Oldest running ski area in Colorado, you bet they have uphill access. During operating hours either take the Lower Hobo Park cross country trail up Mile Run onto Blackmer Trail. Otherwise, park at the Blackmer Trail trailhead to avoid downhill skiers. No additional pass is needed for uphill, and dogs are not allowed within the ski area boundary. After hours, uphill access is permitted anywhere in the ski area.
For skiers and snowboarders wishing to climb and descend the alpine slopes, Eldora offers uphill access through specific uphill tickets or passes. Uphill passes include early access three days per week from 7 to 9 a.m. (uphill tickets do not include early access), otherwise uphill access is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. once uphill access opens for the season (it has not opened as of this writing). There are blackout dates for uphill access at Eldora, so it’s best to sleep in on Saturdays, Sundays, Dec. 20 - Jan. 3, Jan. 17 and Feb. 21. Once you’re ready to put in some sweat equity, start at the Nordic Center to Tenderfoot to Foxtail to Bunnyfair and cross Sundance to Summer Road and Jolly Jug before topping out at the Alpenglow chairlift (this route may change, so be sure to check Eldora’s website prior to visiting).. Another option follows Lower Diamond Back to the junction of Four O’ Clock Trail and into the woods between Klondike and Upper Diamond Back before crossing International to Windmill to the summit of Challenge Mountain. If you have an uphill season pass and plan on heading out for early access, start out by heading to the Indian Peaks Lodge to scan your pass before ascending Bonanza and following the daytime route on Jolly Jug.
Soak up the sights of the Roaring Fork Valley! Free for season pass holders and $10 for a day ticket or $50 for an uphill pass, be sure to keep your pass visible at all times and leave your dog at home. The Blue Route follows under the Tercero lift line to hiker’s left of Loop, and then follow the signs past the top of the lift to Sunking. Continue along the right side of Little Max before summiting. If you’re looking for something a bit more mellow, follow the Green Route from the base along hiker’s left of Ute trail to the top.
Before you get into some of Colorado’s most storied terrain, head uphill to scope your lines. Uphill access is only permitted on ski trails in the Sunshine area with the exception of Sundance trail from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.. Even fat biking is allowed from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., as is your leashed, well behaved, four-legged friend.
Powderhorn Mountain Resort
Although uphill access is currently unavailable at Powderhorn, why not get a head start on planning your uphill season? Uphill tickets are $5 and require an online reservation, and uphill passes are available for $29. If you’re already a Powderhorn Season Pass holder, you’re good to go. No matter what option you choose, be sure to have your ticket or arm band with you. During operation hours, stay hiker’s right of Bill’s Run, Red Eye, Lower Greenhorn, Woderbump, Lower Dude, and Tenderfoot. Be sure to never enter closed terrain, and leave your dog at home.
If you’re looking to head uphill, be sure to snag a season pass, lift pack, or day ticket. Whether you’re a snowshoer, a skier, or a splitboarder access is allowed from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. If you head out with your dog, be sure it is only from 7 to 8 a.m. or 5 to 6 p.m. Be sure to stick to designated routes up East Mountain, East Ballroom / Rod’s Way / High Roller, and West Mountain.
If you like Monarch in the summer, you’ll love it in the winter. Pick up an uphill access pass at guest services or the Monarch Outpost - uphill access is free to passholders or $59 for the season. Venture out from both during normal operating hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and after hours from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. If you’re a tried and true bike fanatic and missing Monarch Crest shuttle laps, you’re able to fat tire and mountain bike outside of operating hours. No matter your mode of transportation, keep your pass on hand at all times. Monarch recommends leaving your dog at home, even after operating hours, but if you do bring Fido be sure they’re under voice command or on a leash. Uphill routes are marked by yellow, diamond shaped markers with black hours and follow the Barrel Loop, Pano Route, and Milk Route. If the Milk Route and Mirkwood is your destination, be aware that this is avalanche terrain and may be closed, but it’s always important to implement backcountry decision making when in these areas.
If you spend most of your time in Summit County, Copper is the place to earn your turns. Be sure to have your armband visible while you stay on designated routes during prescribed times when traveling uphill and downhill. Route 1 leaves from East Village and ends at EZ Road at the top of Rhapsody and Route 2 leaves from Center Village up Carefree to the Highpoint/ Coppertone split, and you can access these routes from 5-8:30 a.m. and 4:3-10 p.m. only. Route 3 heads from the bottom of Timberline Expressto the top of Copperfields and Route 4 goes from West Village to the top of Lumberjack lift, and both routes are available form 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. If you’re not sure where to begin, Copper offers uphill tours and if you want to build your backcountry knowledge, check out the new Mammut Education Center.