Resort Uphill Skiing Code of Ethics and Guidelines

Post by blogger | September 6, 2017      
Uphill at the resort, all ages.

Uphill skiing at the resort, all ages.

Hey all Wildsnowers, I’ve been working on a couple of projects related to uphill resort skiing. We published our backcountry skier’s code some time ago, figured a version for the resort was way past due. Many resorts now have lists of their uphilling rules — sometimes quite lengthy due to parking issues and so much more. Below needs to be kept brief; to distill the important stuff that’s common to most resorts. I’m thinking the safety aspects are priority, but could we add anything cultural, courtesy related, or otherwise?

Your suggestions?

As an uphill skier, you are a guest of these resorts. Please respect their policies, employees, and patrons in order to keep this activity available.
During all uphill travel I will:

make it a priority to check resort information (phone, internet, signs) for current uphill skiing policies, routes, etcetera.
…abide by all resort policies, laws and regulations.
…stay to the side of runs during operating hours (unless otherwise posted), and when options exist pick routes less used by downhill skiers.
…position myself so I’m visible from above.
…avoid areas where machinery is operating.
…strictly obey all dog regulations.
…be aware that resort emergency services are not available during off hours.
…not enter closed trails and terrain.
…wear bright clothing during daylight; reflective clothing (or markers) and a light source while ascending in darkness.
…consider patronizing resort food and beverage establishments, to show uphillers contribute financially.
…know that in many if not most cases, using ski resort terrain for uphilling is a privilege, not a right (check specific legalities of your destination before you go).

Uphill resort ski touring code of ethics and safety.

Uphill resort ski touring code of ethics and safety.


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22 Responses to “Resort Uphill Skiing Code of Ethics and Guidelines”

  1. Jack September 6th, 2017 9:34 am

    [this is slightly redundant, worthy of emphasis]

    Politely obey the instructions of ski patrollers and other resort personnel.

    [the time to argue about inconsistencies is at the end of the day, with the right person]


    Equip yourself for a reasonable level of self-sufficiency (food, cold layers, water, first aid, communication).

  2. Greg September 6th, 2017 10:02 am

    It is probably subsumed under the “follow resort policies” point, but parking is sometimes an issue for resorts. If you are uphilling early in the morning, don’t park where your vehicle will be in the way of snow removal or setting up the parking lot ropes.

  3. Matt Kinney September 6th, 2017 11:22 am

    Sounds too complicated.

    Rule 5A(1)b,,,, Move to the side and yield when in a fall-line with a telemark skier(s).

  4. Lou Dawson 2 September 6th, 2017 12:24 pm

    Thanks Matt, I’ll look at how it’s all written in terms of complexity. Plus I’m not sure about the use of ellipses, perhaps a little too cute. Lou

  5. Paul Diegel September 6th, 2017 1:48 pm

    Implied but not mentioned: be aware of avalanche mitigation activity and related closures. Remember that changes to open/closed status while you were driving happen and are part of the deal.

  6. Smokey September 6th, 2017 2:02 pm

    “know that using ski resort terrain for uphilling is a privilege, not a right.”

    This opens a can of worms. Most resorts are on public land, permitted to a private company to operate on for the purpose of making money. Seems like this special use permit to make money is a privilage and not a right. Outside of operating hours, I shouldn’t have to say thanks…

  7. Rudi September 6th, 2017 4:14 pm

    …After hours resort operator shall leave section of mid or upper mountain lodge open after hours to accommodate comfortable, warm change over to ski mode.

    ….Access to bathrooms and quality views are encouraged but not required.

    …vending machine shall be installed in said section selling beer and potato chips.

    or just go to ABasin, they basically have this whole thing dialed. The bar is even open if you can make it up and down by 6p.

  8. Lou Dawson 2 September 6th, 2017 4:39 pm

    Smokey, I of course tend to agree with you emotionally, perhaps I’m stating the obvious in that when a resort has special use permit, they have control over who they allow on the land, no matter what our feelings are about it. Where we probably disagree is I actually think making money is a legitimate endeavor for ski resorts, and does not in any way invalidate what they do.

    Rudi, I wish we were closer to ABasin.


  9. See September 6th, 2017 6:46 pm

    But the side of the run is where the powder is…

  10. AAG September 6th, 2017 6:58 pm

    Thank you Lou,

    This is helpful and hits most of the key points. For obvious reasons, it is written for the benefit of the skier. I think a set of guidelines for resorts as to reasonable rules Anand policies for uphill traffic could be equally useful.

    I actually received an email this week from the head of the ski patrol at a local mountain (Berkshire area) asking me for any information or guidelines I could provide him regarding how their area might implement a responsible uphill policy that balances the needs of the resort operator, downhillers, and uphillers.

    I also happen to believe that it is not unreasonable for a resort to charge a nominal fee for use of its trails and facilities as an uphiller. We are utilizing trails that they build and maintain, when open we have access to their facilities, and if we get injured inbounds on the way down we have an expectation that the ski patrol will come to our aid.

  11. Sportisto September 7th, 2017 7:38 am

    Regarding safety aspects (referring to posted picture), uphill skier should use right side of the runs.

  12. Lou Dawson 2 September 7th, 2017 8:20 am

    Sportisto, usually true, when the photo was taken the ski area was closed so very little traffic, uphill in middle was totally ok. I’ll clarify that if possible in the guidelines. Thanks, Lou

  13. Pete Anzalone September 8th, 2017 4:46 am

    …. shall not pee in or near the up track.

  14. Andrew September 11th, 2017 2:42 pm

    Yeah, as a Public Land Owner I disagree, it is a right. Not a privilege. The privilege goes to the resorts, as us public land owners allow them to operate there.

  15. Jacon September 11th, 2017 11:39 pm

    I can’t speak to the west, but for Vermont several of these things are dead wrong. For instance: access to public land IS a right, embedded in the leases of the all the ski areas in VT that lease public lands (most of them). The only caveat is public safety (notably, not your safety or ski-area-employee safety).

    That also means uphillers are NOT guests of the resort, and that you do not need to abide by their policies if you do not care to—I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but uphill policies vary widely from reasonable to illegal.

    Lou, notably, they cannot, in fact, control who has access to the land.

    AAG—I strongly disagree. The resorts should be able to do what their leases permit, which is to charge for concessions. Lift tickets, if you don’t want to skin up. Food, if you want food. Booze, etc. In exchange, they operate with open doors and open parking lots, because like any store, they need people to walk in the door. Yes, we are using trails that they maintain, but they are using land that we own to realize a profit far beyond the cost of their lease. Yes, they create jobs, but they don’t create many living wage jobs. Ski capitalism is about as efficient as other forms.

    And let’s not forget the huge amounts of public water they use…

    As for me, I have no expectation of aid from ski patrol if I didn’t buy a lift ticket.

  16. Lou Dawson 2 September 12th, 2017 7:42 am

    Jacon, thanks much for that. Clearly, the issue of land access rights is much more nuanced than my simplistic statement in this list. I’ll see what I can do with rewording. In the end, note this ethics list is to be included in a Colorado guidebook. Here in Colorado, to the best of my knowledge all our resorts are either on private land or USFS Special Use Permit, both of which have the legal right to determine who is allowed to access their land, and what kind of uses are allowed. So in that sense, indeed, using those lands is a privilege. I’m talking legal realities here, not theory or emotion.

    Emotionally, regarding USFS Special Use Permit lands, I think standards should indeed be more relaxed, but that’s tough to encode into law.

    I made a few edits to the first line and the “privilege” line in the ethics list, please let me know how that works. When published for Colorado, we’ll probably use the older version without the qualifiers.


  17. Andrew September 12th, 2017 7:47 am

    In Montana we see checkerboarding of the land. So often times the lodge of the resort is on private land, but all the ski runs themselves are on USFS. So really, to me, they can only limit my passing through the checkerboard private. If I have a public way in on USFS I see no reason for them to stop me on the resort one way or another. Granted, as a season pass holder and avid uphiller I obviously want to keep that relationship friendly and open. Being hostile to ski patrol gets us nowhere.

  18. Lou Dawson 2 September 12th, 2017 7:57 am

    Andrew, a USFS Special Use Permit essentially makes the permit land “private.” A resort with USFS permit land can disallow a use or block an individual from using the permit land. IF the USFS land is being used by the resort but NOT under a permit, then yes, you can use that land in any way that’s legal according to the USFS. That said, note that the USFS, sheriff or whomever with legal standing to do so can close public land to the public any time they want, for emergencies and such. For example in the case of a wildfire.

    I’d be interested to know if those Montana resorts are using USFS land with no permit to do so. If that’s the case, then again you probably do have the “right” to go on that land as you please, but on the other hand the resort is profiting from the public land system without paying fees — I’d find that to be unusual and even surprising.


  19. Jacon September 12th, 2017 10:37 am

    No problem. We have some checkerboarding here as well—there is some USFS land used by resorts, and some private as well, so it’s tricky. Land management tends to be simpler, though, here, as we have a larger number of small private owners and a strong culture of allowing land access for outdoors activities. The only major players are more or less the ski industry. Out west things are a lot more complex.


  20. Toby September 15th, 2017 3:17 am

    My rule no.1 is to be there 3 to 1 hour before the lifts opens. I surely won’t disturb anyone. Secondly; I usually try stop by the ski hut for a coffee, beer or meal. (Europe). I believe this will be well noted, especially when bigger mass of uphillers will to that. When I’m early, I ‘m also one of their first customers. This is a good memory effect.

  21. Philip Maynard December 13th, 2017 4:18 am


    Whiteface has a $25 uphill season pass, only good for dawn patrol:

    Greek Peak doesn’t have it on their webpage yet, but they are doing the same thing for 2017-2018. $22 for a season uphill pass, 6:30-8:30am only.

    Hunter is offering free dawn patrol, no pass needed:

    Windham is now open alll day for uphill travel, with a $10/day or $25/season pass.

    Elk Mountain: you will be threatened with criminal charges by the lead ski patroller (I was very polite, he’s just a dick).

    Bellayre and Gore – they both have a written no-uphill policy.

    Happy skinning!


  22. Lou Dawson 2 December 13th, 2017 8:34 am

    Thanks Phil! Lou

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