Uphilling. It sounds like a fancy term for sidestepping your way back up a ski slope after you lose a ski. Or a trendy term for some god-awful workout regimen.
Don’t worry. It’s way better.
Increasing numbers of skiers are skinning up their favorite resorts before, during, and after operating hours to access runs with few crowds and no lifts. The movement parallels an industry-wide uptick in backcountry skiing, offering all the exercise benefits of “earning your turns” without the intimidating logistics or avalanche danger. And it costs little to nothing.
Sold? Here are five tips to help you start your uphill career:
1. Know your Mountain’s Policy
While skiing in the resort outside operating hours means increased freedom, it also means you need to know where you’re allowed to climb up and ski down. Mountains that allow skinning during operating hours require you to stick to certain routes (which are usually the easiest ascents anyway).
Most resorts want you to read their policy, sign a waiver, and in some cases purchase an uphill skiing pass for around $25. Knowing before you go will help you avoid awkward run-ins on-mountain—and keep you from wrecking the experience for everyone else.
Check out this Colorado.com piece that outlines the policies at a number of Colorado resorts.
2. Embrace the Golden Hour
Whether you skin up for dawn patrol or dinner hors d’oeuvres, you’ll be doing so in low light—and ideally under majestic colors. Some people start climbing as a headlamp beam in the pre-morning dark; others look to summit for sunset and descend in last light.
Whatever approach you choose, you may need to adjust your biological clock, pour some coffee, and learn to love the wee hours. It’s not hard.
3. Use the Right (and Light) Gear
Needless to say: You’ll need a touring setup of some sort to uphill. You could go with a downhill-oriented frame binding or lighter variations of tech bindings, which require matching boots. Our recommendation: go light. Narrower skis with tech bindings fly uphill, like the Rossignol Seek, DPS Cassiar Tour1, Dynafit Cho Oyu, and Black Crows Ova Freebird. Wider skis offer all-mountain and backcountry versatility—and primo powder performance. See the Black Crows Camox Freebird, Armada Trace and Tracer, the Kastle TX 98, and the DPS Wailer 99 Tour1.
4. Dial in the Tailgate Scene
Cruising down a “closed” mountain is a blast. It’s even better when you cap it with snacks, beers—maybe even hot chocolate or dinner. Bring a cooler, a cozy jacket, and a speaker. You’ll have earned a stylish parking-lot après.
5. Layer Up
“Start cold” is the expression, and it certainly applies to skinning. If you overdress and drench your clothes in sweat on the way up, it’s a one-way ticket to a miserable transition on a frigid summit. Lightweight softshell jackets and soft, knit midlayers (see the Kuhl Adriana and Black Crows Ventus Polartec Powerstretch Pro) prove invaluable. As ever—no cotton! Plush-but-packable down jackets, like the Patagonia Nano Puff and Flylow Dexter keep you cozy while you strip your skins and switch to ski mode. Slippers and extra warm jackets (Patagonia Bivy Down) key the parking lot party.