Quandary: How to get uphill at Summit’s ski areas


Quandary, the old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to all questions about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Email your queries about Summit and the High Country to

Dear Quandary,

I enjoyed your article “To ski or snowshoe?” You refer to ski mountaineering. It would be helpful to learn of places to snowshoe uphill to burn lots of calories. Backcountry skiing using skins for exercise is also interesting.


Hi John, you came to the right goat. As you may or may not know, uphill travel is a staple of any good mountain goat’s exercise routine, so I do have a certain expertise on the issue. However, since old Quandary doesn’t know how talented your hooves are, and the Summit Daily doesn’t like to get sued, I can’t give you tips for backcountry access, but I’d be happy to help out with other options for you. If you do decide to head into the backcountry make sure to take an avalanche beacon with you, take a safety course and consider consulting with a local guide company on which routes would work best for you. Otherwise, you might end up in over your head, either via an avalanche or gnarly terrain.

You can still get in a good workout without having to head to the backcountry though. There are a number of trails accessible on snowshoes during the winter, and you can check the winter edition of Explore Summit magazine for a list of options by skillset. All of Summit’s ski areas allow for some kind of uphill access, but the rules change throughout the season and on a day-to-day basis, so make sure to keep up with conditions before heading to the ski hill. You can use snowshoes, skins or hiking boots to get yourself up the mountain and skis or a board to head back down — just don’t try to sled, they won’t like that.

Consider it a giant game of Simon Says: if the resort doesn’t say so, you can’t go. At this point, Copper Mountain is the head of the no-go gang, so don’t even think about uphill access there until after the first of the year. Once January arrives, you can get a free uphill access pass by heading to the lower patrol room, filling out a waiver, giving them your license plate number and agreeing to wear a reflective armband. Most of this is for safety reasons and the license plate is just so you can park for free from 6–9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to midnight. Unfortunately, four-legged friends are not allowed to head uphill with you so leave the goats and dogs at home. For questions about Copper, call 970-968-2318 ext. 66131.

If it’s game over if you can’t have Rover, consider checking out Arapahoe Basin Ski Area instead. A-Basin allows dogs during non-operational hours, so long as they are under the owner’s control and you pick up after the pup. Much like a beloved quarterback with a sprained ankle, uphill access at the ski area is a game-time decision. The Basin decides by 6 a.m. every day whether uphill access will be allowed and where, so be sure to check before venturing out. Again, you will also need to get a free uphill access pass before heading out and you will be given a full set of the rules, including where to park and where to skin or snowshoe. You can pick up the pass at the season pass office. During operational hours, you can only head uphill on the eastern edge of High Noon between the base area and Black Mountain Lodge. If you decide to skin up in the evening, know that several of the ski area’s parking lots get locked at 6 p.m. So unless you want your workout to end with a walk home, check signage to make sure you and your car can be reunited.

At Keystone Resort, uphill access is restricted to nonoperational hours, but that means you get to again use the paid parking for free. For uphillers, you want to use the River Run Gondola or Porcupine lot. Just be sure to get off the hill and out of Porcupine before the lifts start turning. You will also need to leave your pup at home to hit up Keystone. For questions on access, call 970-496-4033.

At Breckenridge Ski Resort, you can enjoy uphill access from 5 p.m. to 8:30 a.m., but you better be off the mountain after that. Again, leave the pup at home, and you’ll want to obtain an uphill access parking permit to be able to use the South Gondola Lot, Stables lot at Peak 8 and Beaver Run parking lots for free. For information about open terrain, call the access hotline at 970-547-5627.

No matter where you go, know that you are assuming the responsibility. A ski area outside of operational hours is just like a pool without a lifeguard: Use at your own risk. There will not be patrollers out to check on you and there may be heavy machinery buzzing around the mountain, so be aware of your surroundings at all times. You’ll also want to stick to the center of the trails no matter which direction you are headed, wear reflective clothing and a headlamp to make yourself as visible as possible. If you’re at A-Basin, consider some bright clothing for your pup as well. None of the terrain or hours for uphill access are set in stone since conditions, avalanche mitigation and trail work can all affect your ability to haul your butt up the hill, so be sure to check with each resort before heading out for your next workout session.

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