For those who prefer the non-taxing après-ski experience of a fireside hot chocolate (or hot toddy) in a cozy lodge to barreling down a black diamond slope, the mere mention of an activity called uphill skiing might make us shudder more than a frigid nighttime ride on a quad lift.
But hear us out.
Copper Mountain Resort, located 75 west miles of Denver, recently underwent a $100 million, multiyear transformation and is offering a brand-new, fully guided uphill skiing experience. The official term for the activity is “skinning,” which involves special equipment to travel up a snow-covered mountain. Skins with a sticky, glue-like adhesive are attached to the bottom of skis or snowboards (called a splitboard) that allow you to walk up the mountain — much the same way some amphibians and other animals have sticky pads on the bottom of their feet to climb walls and trees. Bindings attach at the toe and boots hinge at the ankle to make mobility easier. When you get to the top, skins are removed and the bindings and boots locked down, making it easy to whoosh down the run in the traditional way. It’s great cardio exercise, not to mention a mental boost of knowing you climbed a slope without the help of a lift or gondola.
A group uphill tour lasts 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and costs $99 per person (up to five people per guide) while a private uphill tour is $249 for the first person and $50 for the second (there is a maximum of two people). Tours include rental of uphill touring skis or a splitboard, poles and a helmet, fitted by the guide and rental experts. Skiers also get an uphill logo water bottle, snacks and use of a backpack during the activity.
Once dressed and ready, the guide will lead the group from Center Village at an easy pace to West Village, then through the trees on a forested skintrack — a 1,000-foot ascent. All the while, guides provide pointers on technique and share knowledge of the environment. Once at the top, ski or snowboard down a beginner groomed trail and enjoy a complimentary beverage at the scenic mid-mountain restaurant Koko.
Uphill skiing tours are available Friday–Sunday throughout the season and upon request, but tours must be booked in advance. Attendees must be physically fit to ascend uphill on skis, at least 13 years of age and an intermediate to advanced downhill skier or rider.
Once you conquer that uphill ascent, cross-country skiing will look like a literal walk in the park.
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