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By Tess Weaver Strokes
When I first saw people skinning up groomed resort trails where I live, in Aspen, Colorado, I scoffed. How ridiculous! Touring was for the backcountry and for scoring fresh turns. But as the inbounds skinning movement gained momentum, I began to see the benefits. It’s the ultimate outdoor winter workout, it can be done before or after work, it’s free (in Aspen), and after sweating to the top, I get to ski back down.
Plus, there’s no need to carry a shovel or read the avalanche report. I started skinning up Buttermilk a couple times a week, and by the following season I was wearing a headband, sporty glasses, and super-light boots and skis, timing myself up Aspen Mountain. Resort skinning is so popular now, most resorts have uphill policies, and ski companies make dedicated uphilling gear. Here’s how to get started.
Gear: We asked 2014 North American ski-mountaineering champion John Gaston, owner of Aspen’s Strafe outerwear, to weigh in on the gear he has trained and raced on in his quest for the perfect setup. Click here to see his suggestions.
Races: Skin to win at one of these races. Find out more here.
Dynafit Rise & Shine Rando Series / Arapahoe Basin, CO
These four races are designed for Denver-area desk jockeys who want to get in get in some fun, casual racing before work. Info here.
Five Peaks / Breckenridge, CO
The highest ski-mo race in North America gains more than 8,000 feet of vertical and four summits in the Ten Mile range.
U.S. Ski Mountaineering Nationals / Crested Butte, CO
This weekend-long event involves the season’s most demanding climb—Guides Ridge to the peak of Crested Butte.
Power of Four / Aspen, CO
The toughest race of the bunch climbs approximately 12,000 vertical feet over 25 miles across four ski areas.
Wasatch Powder Keg / Brighton, UT
Established in 2003, this event features sprint, individual, and technical team races.
N.E. Race Series / VT, MA
This series travels to Magic Mountain and Bromley in Vermont, as well as Berkshire East and Mount Greylock in Massachusetts.
Mad River Valley Ski-Mo Race, VT
This popular race climbs from the base of Mad River Glen, traverses the Long Trail, and finishes at Sugarbush’s Lincoln Peak base.
Uphill-Friendly Resorts: We applaud these progressive areas for their thoughtful uphill policies. See a bigger list here.
Killington Ski Resort and Pico Mountain, VT
Designated routes are always open, and an annual pass is $20 (free with season pass).
Magic Mountain, VT
Uphill-friendly for more than 20 years; preferred routes go up the east side of the resort.
Uphilling is allowed at all four resorts; leashed dogs and 24/7 access permitted at Snowmass.
Crested Butte, CO
America’s most uphill-friendly resort is the home of the first uphill demo/lesson center.
Arapahoe Basin, CO
Uphill-access pass required (free, good for life); skinning is allowed on the east side of High Noon to Black Mountain Lodge during operating hours; dogs allowed.
Author Tess Weaver Strokes is a freelance writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She has written for The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic.
(Photos from top: Courtesy Aspen Ski Co./Jeremy Swanson, Brian Mohr/Ember Photo)