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Because it's 2017: Uphill Skinning at Resorts

Because it's 2017: Uphill Skinning at Resorts

Aspen-Snowmass will rent and demo Dynafit for uphill skiing starting this Winter. The news came out last week. One step closer towards wider acceptance of "fitness" skiers in resorts across North America. All year we have been hearing about major ski destinations across the US increasing their service offerings by allowing uphill skiing/skinning inbounds at an affordable price. "Major" as in Vail, Crested Butte, Beaver Creek and Park City. Sixty resorts in total. Yes, you read that right, 60 resorts allow you (with different policies) to skin uphill inbounds for a few well deserved descents. 

 

It's awesome that resort uphill skiing is the fastest growing segment in the skiing industry right now. More people are staying fit while logging in a couple descents in the safety of a controlled environment, a resort. Many backcountry skiers don't get the 'why' behind this new trend. It is actually quite simple. Different motivations, less time, different risk tolerance, children skiing at the resort and training are all great reasons for resort ski-touring. I am myself a backcountry skier but you will find me a few mornings a week skinning up Sunshine Village because I also am a skimo racer and I have to train at fast skinning. What if you could hit Norquay before or after work for a quick lap? Bring a beginner inbounds to get familiar with touring gear? Demo backcountry skis both on the up and the down? Inbounds skinning allows all of these things!

 

So, what is the landscape for resort uphill skiing in Canada? They certainly seem to have it figured out in Quebec. Most major resorts already have a favourable uphill policy and allow skinning at a very affordable price. Tremblant, just north of Montreal, sees hundreds of people using its uphill routes during the weekends. Where things are decoupled from this trend are resorts allowing the same activity in Western Canada. To my knowledge, Castle Mountain in Alberta is the only resort officially allowing uphill travel inbouds starting this Winter! In most resorts, skinning up inbounds, at the side of a low-angled ski run still gets you kicked out by the ski patrol. In 2017, when 60 resorts in the US allow it...

 

At SkiUphill, we think that developing a stronger backcountry skiing community also means making inbounds uphill skiing possible. For the parents who drop their children at the chairlift and then skin up at the resort rather than going somewhere else to cross-country ski to the "fitness skier" who isn't comfortable in avalanche terrain, this would make ski touring a more inclusive sport. Even the most hardcore backcountry skiers would probably end up skinning up at a resort here and there. 

 

The go-to answer when questioned about not having uphill policies is liability, which is easily remedied through the resorts existing waivers. Maybe uphill skiing is the new snowboarding? We have spent the last five months trying to meet with managers at Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Norquay without any success. While backcounty skiing is becoming increasingly more accessible, connecting with those at the ski resorts is becoming more inaccessible, if next to impossible. This is worrysome to us as Western Canadian ski resorts are not recognizing trends in skiing despite 60+ resorts in the US and many in Eastern Canada having favorable uphill policies. The resorts here seem more interested in catering to existing customers rather than meeting the needs of future customers. Is this the canary in the coal mine? What is the future of Western Canadian ski resorts? We’ll let you decide.

6 comments

Dec 01, 2017 • Posted by Sébastien M

Keep working hard at it guys, thank you.

I believe smaller hills (and larger) have something to gain in attracting new customers without any capital investment. I use my local ski hill here in western QC twice a week to do laps after work and I deliberately purchase food and drinks since they don’t charge me for the uphill. I would not have gone to that resort last year just to do downhill.

The “safety issue” intrigues me since resort snowmobiles already go uphill on designated routes at far greater speeds than uphill skiers do. Practically, I imagine routing is the most important part in order to avoid blind spots and crossing intersections. Legally, the liability must not be worth the trouble in their mind. Monetarily, we need to find a way to show them the direct economic benefits and lost opportunities of not adapting.

We’re all here for the same thing, having fun skiing.

Sep 25, 2017 • Posted by Jeff

In a National Park a private company activity shouldn’t interfere with the public enjoyment of the park. SSV is in the Park, they can’t legally kick you out…

Sep 22, 2017 • Posted by David

I suspect it will be a matter of numbers of people asking the right people – thumbs up to anyone actually making a request at a ski area as a potential customer rather than just speculating or discussing in backcountry internet forums. It’s one thing to have the legal right to pass through a ski area’s tenure and another entirely to be able to show up regularly and throw laps for training or exercise. Nice one, Joel.

Sep 21, 2017 • Posted by Colin

As I understand it, resorts in national parks cannot kick you off their land since that land is leased and as a citizen(with a valid park pass) you can travel pretty freely in the backcountry.
You can skin up and ski down all you want but the second you try to catch a chairlift you’ll be in trouble

Sep 21, 2017 • Posted by Nick

Little clarification, at least here in the National Park – to the best of my knowledge the ski resorts here (Norquay, Sunshine, Lake Louise) permit passage through the resort to backcountry skiers. However, unless you have a regular lift pass you can’t go and do laps on the runs.

So all three resorts technically allow “uphill inbounds travel” – it’s just restricted at the moment to accessing terrain through the resorts.

Sep 21, 2017 • Posted by Bryan Bell

Hey Joel you should get a clarification from parks on issue as it is written in land use rules.

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