Uphill Ski 101

What is uphill skiing? 

We were a little confused when we first saw people trudging up the mountain at the resorts. But after seeing it enough times, you start to think, hey, that looks interesting- should I try that? But, of course, the outliers always initiate the next big thing. 

While not new, uphill skiing, also known as alpine touring or skinning, is gaining momentum. Uphill is a form of skiing in which skiers go UP a mountain using specialized equipment and techniques along with their own powder. Unlike downhill skiing, which takes place on groomed slopes and requires lift access, uphill skiing allows skiers to explore the backcountry and access untracked terrain. Even at the resorts, there is now specific terrain for those that want to power themselves to the top of the mountain and, if early enough, carve fresh tracks on the way down. 

What do you need to get in on this fun? The equipment used for uphill skiing differs from that used for downhill skiing. Skiers use lightweight skis with skins attached to the bottom, which provide traction for ascending the mountain. 

Gear to get started: Uphill skiing requires uphill boots like the Scarpa Mastrali and Dynafit Radical Pro. These boots are compatible with binding that allow you to hike uphill and then be modified to ski alpine downhill, such as the Dynafit ST Rotation and the G3 Ion 12.

Skins on your skis allow you to go up! Depending on your preference, you can prioritize grip versus glide, simply a change in materials that help you go uphill. The POMOCA Climb 2.0 or the G3 Alpinist. This combination can be used on any ski but is most accommodating with lightweight construction, such as the Faction Agent and the Dynafit Free 97. For those who spend their time 50% in a resort and 50% in the backcountry, hybrid boots, bindings, and skis would be the perfect fit. A great setup would be the Salomon Shift binding, Scarpa Quattro 4 boot, or the Salomon Shift Pro boot mounted on a pair of Icelantic Nomad Lites.

Where to start: It will be at a ski resort to familiarize yourself with the equipment in a safe area. Most, if not all, offer a method of uphill access. Powderhorn provides this option, and Bluebird in Kremmling, CO, is the only ski area in the world designed for backcountry education. After you feel comfortable inbound, you can begin venturing into the backcountry. 

There is an option for snowboarders as well. Snowboarders can begin exploring with split boards. A split board is a snowboard that can be separated into two parts to perform uphill skiing with skins on the bottom. Once you reach the point where you’ll be riding down, you put the two parts back together and can snowboard down. 

uphill ski tracks

Uphill skiing in the backcountry comes with the usual risks and challenges. Skiers must be prepared for the elements, including extreme cold, wind, and snow. They must also be aware of the risk of avalanches and other hazards and have the necessary equipment and skills to stay safe. Skiers often use poles and carry backpacks with essential gear such as food, water, and safety equipment. Skiers must be able to navigate steep and uneven terrain and manage the physical demands of climbing a mountain. In addition, it is essential to be in good physical condition and have knowledge of backcountry safety and survival skills.

Uphill skiing has gained popularity among skiers looking for a new challenge and a different way to experience the mountain. Uphill skiing can be a rewarding and exciting way to explore the backcountry or get a rewarding workout at the resort with the right equipment and training. 

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