Human Powered Skiing — Aspen to Operate Without Ski Lifts

Post by blogger | March 1, 2017      

No, it’s not April 1st yet. We’re serious. Read on.

Starting the day right.

Starting the day right.

Resort uphilling is increasingly popular around the world. Here in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado, the Aspen/Snowmass Ski Company graciously welcomes skinners 24/7 on 3 of their 4 ski areas (with limited access allowed on the 4th).

And this year there’s more:

  • Every Thursday morning during the ski season, the Cliff House Restaurant on Buttermilk will open early, offering free coffee and pastries to human powered skiers who get there by 8:30/am. Meet at the Tiehack parking lot at 7:30, greet old and new friends, and skin up while enjoying spectacular views and fresh air. Refreshments at the restaurant compliments of the Aspen Ski Company, Cripple Creek Backcountry, Ute Mountaineer, Aspen Expeditions, Aspen Alpine Guides, and Friends of CAIC.
  • Pig Skin, March 9th. Our culinary genius friends at Slow Groovin opened shop in Snowmass and have been dishing their delicious BBQ to skiers all winter. On March 9th they will be offering free pulled pork sandwiches to uphillers, 8:30/pm. Meet at Slow Groovin, Snowmass mall, at 7:00/pm to skin/hike up Snowmass ski area. At 8:30/pm sandwiches and live music served at Slow Groovin BBQ, Snowmass mall. Co-hosted by Cripple Creek Backcountry. Full information here.
  • Full moon dinners — skin or hike up Buttermilk under the full moon to dinner at Cliffhouse and live music. Free hot chocolate from 5-6/pm. À la carte dinner specials, snacks and a cash bar will be offered inside Cliffhouse. Last full moon dinner of the season: March 12th.
  • And this is the big one: Buttermilk/Tiehack ski area is the first in the Aspen area to close every winter. This year the Aspen Snowmass Ski Company will extend Buttermilk’s season by opening the mountain to skiers, without operating lifts! That’s right: the restaurants will be open, the runs will be groomed, but none of the lifts will be operating. It’s skin up and ski. With the exception of diesel the snowcats burn, this could be the greenest local resort skiing in recent times. Uphill weekend — when: April 8 & 9, where: Buttermilk, Tiehack and West Buttermilk. See you there!
  • Bonus shot. Look what appeared on the WildSnow front porch. New Atomic Backland Ultimate.

    Bonus shot. Look what appeared on the WildSnow front porch. New Atomic Backland Ultimate is made for uphill fitness skiing or citizen racing. 750 grams size 27.5 is impressive. Clearly, this is a boot intended for a newish category the equipment folks have honed in on. I’m told that fully 30% of new ski touring setups are purchased by folks planning on primarily skiing uphill at resorts (e.g. “speedfit,” “endurance touring,” or “fitness uphilling”). Sure, we’re a backcountry skiing website, but we can’t deny the fun and “semi backcountry” nature of “skinning” on piste — so we’ll cover it. But we hope it’s frequently a path to the wild.


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    24 Responses to “Human Powered Skiing — Aspen to Operate Without Ski Lifts”

    1. See March 1st, 2017 8:45 am

      I may have to reconsider the whole resort uphill thing in light of the full moon dinner concept.

    2. Tom Gos March 1st, 2017 9:36 am

      Way cool, hopefully the other resort operators will follow suit.

    3. Danno March 1st, 2017 10:09 am

      That is super cool. Though I can’t imagine staffing the restaurants at Buttermilk will make economic sense. Prove me wrong, Aspen skiers!

    4. Brian MacIlvain March 1st, 2017 11:06 am

      Any word on MSRP or availability yet?

      Will the shell be moldable like the backlands? Also, very curious to hear how they ski, since I hear the backlands don’t do well without a tongue, unlike TLTs.

      Similar weight to Dynafit EVOs, which they’re no longer making, and the Scarpa Alien 1.0s. Priced right, could be great competition to the syborgs, aliens and pdg boots.

    5. Matt N March 1st, 2017 11:09 am

      Regional delicacy: At present, there are *zero* resorts in Tahoe area that allow uphill travel in bounds. With or without pass, before or after closing, pre- or post-season, they do not want you climbing their mountain. Not sure this will ever change while we lead the lawyers-per-capita ranking…

    6. Colin March 1st, 2017 11:46 am

      @Matt N., that is 100% incorrect. Sugar Bowl and Heavenly explicitly allow it and have established policies. Others do as well, but it’s unofficial.

      And watch the rap on attorneys. If the Forest Service is pushed to allow more, it’ll be attorneys doing the heavy lifting.

      Carry on…

    7. Lou Dawson 2 March 1st, 2017 11:56 am

      Brian, Backland Ultimate is the easily molded plastic “Memory Fit” and Grilamid, I’m making a 28 toe out of my 27 shell right now, incredibly easy, if not scary on the ring press. Available next fall. They’re clearly built to be as light as possible for easy feeling walking. Somewhat specialized, I would not call them an overall “ski touring” boot other than for folks looking to compromise to the uphill side. Super comfortable. Not the stiffest boot you’ve ever been in, that’s for sure. Liner even breaths somewhat! Lou

    8. JCoates March 1st, 2017 2:49 pm

      Very cool and it sounds like the folks of Aspen are working on making it the ski town with the best quality of life in America. Too bad I can’t afford to live there though. 🙂

    9. Lou Dawson 2 March 1st, 2017 2:55 pm

      IMHO the youthful coolest local’s scene is actually downvalley 30 or 40 miles… still expensive but you don’t have to be wealthy. Quick drive up to the resorts on a 4-lane, or you can go other places. A half hour closer to Moab! It’s an interesting dynamic in terms of who lives where. Aspen has quite a few folks of somewhat normal means, due to government housing as well as locals who have just played their cards right, but in terms of numbers of “normal” folks Aspen is nothing like these downvalley areas, which are quite culturally diverse in terms of income and heritage. All fun, we have it pretty good around here. Lou

    10. Leslie March 1st, 2017 4:58 pm

      I’m one of the lucky ones who live near Aspen. Sure, I work 2 jobs and still can’t afford a ski pass but I get my turns in because I uphill, and I sure am grateful that it’s allowed. Thanks Skico, see you guys tomorrow morning!!!

    11. Kyle March 1st, 2017 6:54 pm

      Liking the looks of those boots for splitboarding. Using tlt6 now. Does it look like the boot lean lock could be modified easily for more range when locked? Like with the tlt6 you just file the lean plate to your desired range.

    12. Aaron Mattix March 1st, 2017 8:29 pm

      Resort uphilling is the gateway drug to backcountry skiing.

      I need to get out and check out this eating & uphilling combo!

    13. JCoates March 1st, 2017 9:07 pm

      @Aaron: Or resort uphilling is the “methadone” to BC skiing. Not as good as the real thing but it keeps the withdrawals from occurring during the work week or when weather/snow conditions don’t cooperate.

    14. Lou Dawson 2 March 2nd, 2017 10:37 am

      JCoats, that’s what it is for Lisa and I, and sometimes it can be nearly the same thing, like this morning hiking up before the lifts opened, on perfect groom, under 100% blue sky. Yeah it aint backcountry but it clearly aint wrong. Lou

    15. ryan March 2nd, 2017 3:46 pm

      Hi Lou,

      Wouldn’t it be great to have Slow Groovin BBQ open up for a ski weekend in Marble? Corn skiing and BBQ would be fantastic. We have 2 cabins and a teepee right down the street for use as well


    16. Erik Skarvan March 2nd, 2017 10:00 pm

      We held the Sun Dog’s K-9 Uphill benefit event on that weekend for 20 yrs, and Krabloonik took it over last year. Is it no longer being held? I can’t imagine it could be held on another weekend and it was a community tradition for hundreds.

      This idea sounds cool too! The Mother of All Ascensions was awesome this past Tuesday in Snowmass, btw.
      Uphill on!

    17. OMR March 2nd, 2017 11:48 pm

      I personally don’t get it (skinning up groomers) but I’m all for it if it’ll reduce the pressure from traditional and real B.C. routes, which in the Wasatch were always crowded, but the use is now hitting terminal velocity with every school kid, Bishop and Relief Society President skinning for their spiritual ju-ju. And what’s next? Groomed, commuter skin lanes up South Temple from downtown SLC to the University?

    18. Walt March 3rd, 2017 1:01 pm

      The buttermilk uphilling is going to be awesome!!! Finally a real reason to climb uphill – world class skiing on the way down. The Aspen valley gets a bad rap as being expensive but if you go about 40 miles downvalley, it is pretty realistic to make ends meet with 3-4 jobs. I’m going to talk to my employers to schedule a day off to make it happen. Gas is just a hair under $5 a gallon in Aspen for the cheap stuff) but the commute downvalley for the cultural diversity is well worth it. I was lucky enough to score a bedroom in the basement of a house for $1,200 a month but my family gets full use of the entire house (and the other families that we share the house with are not into skiing at all and work even more than I do,) The golden era of easy living in the valley may have come to an end with the closing of Burgerking in Glenwood (they were running an awesome deal with 2 whoppers, 2 fries and 2 cokes for $10.) Luckily, they only closed down one of the two McDonalds in the valley and there is still one within striking distance of Aspen (under 50 miles away.) Their value meals are exactly what they claim to be and come with free refills of soft drinks and a great assortment of condiments. I am going to try to pick up a couple more shifts prior to the uphilling at Buttermilk to participate in the entire experience and have lunch at the base area restaurant. If you skip the cheese on the burger, you can still get one for under $20. Unfortunately, I don’t think a bun is included at this price. One extra bonus is the convenient free parking at the bottom of the mountain (Aspen Highlands next door charges $25 for day parking- less than $200 a week but it is a paved parking lot and the girl in the toll booth is kinda cute- I’d give her all the cash I have anytime!) See you at Buttermilk!!!

    19. Walt March 3rd, 2017 1:24 pm

      Do you know if ski patrol is going to be at Buttermilk? They took my ski pass for ducking ropes again. They told me to write a letter to the Aspen papers about how I am a bad person and it was a bad thing to do and then they “might give me back my ski pass.”. I told them that I wasn’t going to write any letter unless they were willing to re-resurrect the golf shrine they took down at Snowmass.

    20. Eric Malmborg March 5th, 2017 5:35 pm

      Hey Eldora! Are you listening? Compare your $25/day charge and $149/year pass for limited uphill access to what Aspen is doing! Take a page from their playbook!

    21. Mike Soucy March 6th, 2017 9:27 am

      Eric- the higher price is obviously a tool to control crowds. If uphill at Eldora were free/very cheap, they’d have half of Boulder up there.

    22. Lou Dawson 2 March 6th, 2017 9:36 am

      Walt, your trials sound nearly insurmountable, especially the search for Micky D!

    23. Lou Dawson 2 March 6th, 2017 9:40 am

      Mike and all, I do find the price for the uphill ticket at Eldora to be a bit odd, it’s like they arranged it to be a self fulfilling prophecy (look how few uphillers we got, so let’s just stop it…). What’s even odder is it appears they could easily make an uphill route through forest to the side of their perimeter runs, perhaps charge a bit less, and keep everyone happy. I have to guess that perhaps the issue is limited parking? But is that something a D8 and a few dumpers of gravel could cure in an hour or two? Interesting… Lou

    24. Kristian March 6th, 2017 10:22 am

      I was loyal to Eldora for decades. No more. They removed nordic from their pass. Almost impossible to get to the top of any of their ancient lifts without at least two prolonged stops. Minimal staffing; rarely see ski patrol. Exceptionally poor etiquette with inexperienced of all ages on expert runs. Early lift closings requiring long hike backs. Multiple weeks early resort season closings although they still have plenty of snow to save money. The list goes on.

      Every single decision coming from them has been to maximize profit. There have been many pitched battles with their cliental and their surrounding neighbors. $25/day uphill charge fits with that. Already have a season pass? You still need to pay more to uphill.

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