Uphill policies vary at Colorado ski areas

John Stroud, Glenwood Springs Post Independent
The sunrise illuminates the clouds over the Continental Divide as skiers line up in advance of November 2018's first uphill race of the season at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Courtesy Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

According to an online listing compiled by the trade association Colorado Ski Country USA, five out of 22 member ski areas have adopted pay-to-play policies when it comes to skinning, snowshoeing or hiking up the mountain.

Uphill policies vary at Colorado ski areas

  • Arapahoe Basin — A-Basin offers uphilling access on designated trails to guests with a $30 season uphill access pass.
  • Aspen Highlands — Uphilling at Aspen Highlands is free, but limited to designated routes and guests are required to stay on the sides of the trail and remain visible at all times.
  • Aspen Mountain –  Uphilling at Aspen Mountain is allowed for free on designated routes, but not during operating hours.
  • Buttermilk – Uphilling at Buttermilk is free, and allowed during operational hours on designated routes.
  • Cooper – Uphill access is permitted at Cooper after 5 p.m. and before 8 a.m. with the required Uphill Access Pass at a cost of $25 for the season or $5 per day.
  • Copper Mountain – When Uphill Access is open, it is restricted to designated routes during non-operating hours. All guests are required to obtain a free Copper Mountain Uphill Access Pass.
  • Echo Mountain – No uphill access is permitted at this time.
  • Eldora – Eldora offers uphill access on specific routes at specific times. An Alpine Touring (AT) season pass ($149) or AT day ticket ($25) is required. There is no uphill access permitted on weekends, holidays and peak days.
  • Granby Ranch: Granby Ranch allows uphill access on designated routes. Please call the resort for more information.
  • Hesperus – No uphill access is permitted at this time.
  • Howelsen Hill – Please call resort for more information.
  • Loveland – Free uphill access is permitted outside of operating hours for guests with a current Uphill Access Card.
  • Monarch – Uphill travel is allowed during operating hours only on official uphill routes for a $20 season ticket.
  • Powderhorn – Uphill access is allowed at Powderhorn at designated times with a free uphill access ticket.
  • Purgatory – Purgatory Resort is closed to all uphill access.
  • Silverton – Uphill access from the base is not permitted during the operating season.
  • Snowmass – Uphilling at Snowmass is free and allowed on designated routes, but only outside of operational hours
  • Steamboat – Steamboat permits uphill traffic with limited restrictions. Guests must obtain a free uphill access pass.
  • Sunlight – Sunlight allows uphill access to guests who check in with Guest Services and buy a $10 day pass or $50 season pass for uphill access as part of Sunlight’s revised Uphill Passport Program.
  • Telluride – Uphill access is free and permitted on designated trails during operating hours.
  • Winter Park – Uphill access at Winter Park is free and available both during and outside operational hours, but limited to designated routes.
  • Wolf Creek: Wolf Creek does allow uphill access during lift operating hours.

Source: Colorado Ski Country USA

For those that don’t charge, some restrict uphill access to non-operating hours only, and most direct uphill traffic to certain routes so as to limit conflicts with downhill skiers and snowboarders.

Sunlight announced in late November that it would begin charging for uphill access on Compass Mountain this season. The upper portion of the ski area is operated under a lease with the U.S. Forest Service, while the base area and parking lot is private property.

Day or night, uphill skiers at Sunlight are now required to visibly display a special pass. Season pass holders and those buying day tickets will not be charged extra for uphill access, but non-pass-holders are now asked to pay $10 a day or buy a $50 season uphill pass.

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The majority of resorts, including Aspen Ski Company’s four mountains — Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain — allow free uphill access. However, that access is restricted to specific routes with certain time restrictions in most cases. Uphill access is not allowed on Aspen Mountain during operating hours when lifts are running.

Vail Resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek and the Summit County ski areas of Breckenridge and Keystone, have varied policies as well, but allow uphill access for free.

For the Ski Country areas that charge for uphill access, Sunlight is not the most expensive. Eldora ski area near Nederland charges $149 for a season uphill pass, or $25 for a day pass.

Arapahoe Basin, Cooper and Monarch charge less than Sunlight, at $30, $25 and $20, respectively, for a season uphill ticket.

Reaction to Sunlight’s decision to being charging for uphill access has been mixed, based on comments posted to the Post Independent’s Facebook page.

“I call bs …” wrote Joe Mollica. “That mountain belongs to us as taxpayers … if you don’t use the lift, they cannot charge you.”

Countered Sean de Moraes, “I’m all for it (the fee). You’re crossing private property to get to leased land … parking in their private lot, skiing their groomed trails down and using their warming hut up top.”

And, added Derrick Wyle, “I think it’s a fair idea. Just because you’re not sitting on a lift, you still are using the amenities Sunlight provides and maintains …”

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