Backcountry

Heading Up

Fitness fans, a gear revolution and easier slope access fuels a sport's ascent.

Skiing uphill inbounds is quickly gaining traction throughout North America as a great way to spend the day on snow, build fitness, and add a new dimension to your morning workout. Driving this popularity is improved (read: lighter) gear, and the attraction for many skiers of finding a new mountain buzz while still staying on skis. 

The growth of the sport has also translated into the growth of a controversy: where and when to allow uphill traffic? And more importantly, is access free… or not? For now, many ski areas are starting to allow free uphill access on designated routes during designated hours, with a few charging a nominal access fee. Many ski areas allow uphill access before opening day, as well as before and after the lifts run during the regular season, so uphill skiers can get some turns in while everyone else is only dreaming about skiing.

Salomon S/Lab MTN Boot

Salomon MTNS Lab
Photo credit to Keri Bascetta

One of the burliest two buckle boots on the market, these drive skis like a World Cup race model. Pop into walk mode for 47 degrees of movement to keep your uphill stride long, and snap into ski mode to charge down. [$950, salomon.com]

Osprey Kamber 22

Osprey Kamber 22
Photo credit to Keri Bascetta

A smartly designed backpack that keeps wet skins sweetly separate from dry layers, and a sturdy helmet hammock locks your brain bucket to the pack until you’re ready to descend. The front and main compartments are easy to access with gear attached. [$150, osprey.com]

Eddie Bauer EverTherm

Eddie Bauer
Photo credit to Keri Bascetta

Throwing on an insulation layer while taking off skins is important for body heat regulation, and Eddie Bauer’s new insulation technology is comfortable in all conditions. The down fill is woven into thin, layered sheets to keep the jacket lightweight but warm. [$250-$280, eddiebauer.com]

POMOCA Climb 2.0 Skins

Pomoco Climb2
Photo credit to Keri Bascetta

These skins provide uphill glide smoother than silk underwear. A well-designed tail clip from the Swiss company makes sure the skins are locked onto the skis, plus the waterproof finish performs significantly better than other skins on the market. [$170-$190, pomoca.com]

BigTruck American Flag Hat

Big Truck Trucker
Photo credit to Keri Bascetta

Keep the sun out of your eyes while you earn your turns with our favorite trucker hat on the market. [$35, bigtruck.com]

HydroFlask Flex Cap

Hydro Flask
Photo credit to Keri Bascetta

Whether it’s a hot toddy or apple cider, pour it into a compact and colorful Hydro-Flask bottle to enjoy at the top. Double wall insulation keeps drinks hot during the climb, and the stainless-steel construction won’t retain flavors. [$35, hydroflask.com]

Dynafit SpeedFit 84

DYNAFIT SpeedFit 84
Photo credit to Keri Bascetta

This new ski series features a core of Paulownia, ash, and poplar wood layered with fiberglass, providing solid downhill performance while remaining lightweight. A rockered tip and tail create a smaller footprint on hard pack and prevent catchy edges. [$500, dynafit.com]

Italian brand Dynafit is leading the charge with a dedicated line of uphill gear. The SpeedFit series is designed to ease resort skiers into the uphill craze by making lightweight equipment that performs well on the up and the down. Salomon is also getting in the uphill skiing catalog by lightening up its top-performing equipment. And stay tuned, the uphill tech revolution has just begun, with equipment regularly shedding weight each season without losing performance.

Going up at your own pace provides a refreshing new perspective on what skiing at a resort can be. It’s much easier to enjoy the natural buzz of a ski area by heading uphill at an easy pace rather than only racing down. By bringing a hot drink and wearing layers, you can appreciate the views on the way up, while the turns on the way back down will feel well-earned. Starter tip: Don’t hike with your helmet and goggles on, instead, a trucker hat can become stylish and functional.

Read More: SkiMo Gear for Every Skier.

Uphill resort skiing is also a gateway activity to getting people beyond resort boundaries and into the backcountry. Those who enjoy the sport of touring up a ski area on groomed terrain and then skiing the same terrain back down will likely enjoy doing the same on untouched powder. But it’s important to remember that the backcountry, unlike at a resort, is not controlled terrain, and requires firm safety measures and education. If you’re thinking about heading into the backcountry, we highly recommend hiring a guide for your first forays, buying proper safety equipment, and taking avalanche education courses before leaving the resort boundaries.

With the growth of “purpose-built yet user-friendly gear, a wealth of educational resources, and the proliferation of friendly uphill policies,” Jamie Starr, Dynafit’s North American Marketing Manager, sees the trend line gaining popularity. “Whether looking for a new adventure or just to forego yoga or spin class for an hour of fresh air on the piste, uphill skiing is for everyone these days,” he says.