Uphill skiing – climbing uphill on specialized alpine-touring ski gear for both fitness and as a way to hone skills for backcountry skiing – is a growing trend at many North American ski areas. This month, Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Crested Butte, Colo., took a leading role by establishing a formal uphill-skiing program, paired with a demo center in partnership with SCARPA and Ski Trab, leading brands that build equipment for the growing sport.
The result is a comprehensive program that offers access to uphill skiing for both experienced skiers and people new to the sport, and also adds a new dimension to the recreational offerings for visitors to Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
Much the same way people hike or mountain bike up resort trails in the summer time for recreation and fitness, more and more people are climbing in winter to the summits of ski areas under their own power, followed by a ski descent, to stay in shape and simply experience the outdoors on skis in a more aerobic way.
“Crested Butte is a pretty passionate community as far as uphill and backcountry skiing goes. So having both a formal uphill policy that allows a program to co-exist safely with downhill skiing, as well as availability of demo equipment, allows us to support this trend. We are on the forefront of one of the growth spots in the ski industry while offering a new recreational amenity for resort guests,” said Ethan Mueller, Vice President and General Manager of Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
According to Mueller, more than 75 people a day climb up an established route at Crested Butte, then ski down. So far this year, the resort has issued 662 individual Uphill Use passes.
The goal with the Crested Butte program was to establish the most forward-looking, comprehensive program for uphill skiing at a ski area in North America. The program establishes specific uphill routes for skiers and some where skiers can travel with dogs, provides access to SCARPA and Ski Trab rental gear so people who don’t own the equipment can try the sport, and also hosts events geared toward getting people to try the sport. Crested Butte is hosting skills clinics with Team Crested Butte, the locally based ski mountaineering/uphill ski racing team, along with group uphill outings with resort staff, such as Mueller. The demo center is located at the Elevation Station, which is in the Elevation Hotel at the base of the resort.
“There’s a groundswell to this trend, for sure, and uphill policies and passes are models of innovation among snowsports resorts,” said Kim Miller, CEO of SCARPA North America, which makes and distributes equipment for uphill and backcountry skiing. “Much the way bike parks and trails have been adopted by resorts in the last decade, uphill skiing helps diversify the recreational options for people at a ski area. Crested Butte’s approach to this made it a natural to work with the resort on a demo center to help more people experience the sport. They’re really on the leading edge of this.”
SCARPA North America, which makes specialized alpine-touring boots for uphill skiing, and also distributes Ski Trab, a European-based brand that makes lightweight skis for the sport, has seen sales of the kind of gear people use for this style of skiing double over the last two years, according to Miller.
At Crested Butte, an uphill pass costs $10 a day, $100 for the season, and $40 for the remainder of the current season, since approval of the Crested Butte program by the U.S. Forest Service in mid-February, while skiers who already have a downhill mountain pass may ski uphill for free.