Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opens uphill access for the season |

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opens uphill access for the season

Last winter Kent Willoughby, 76,(yellow) and Doris Spencer, 68, spent over 120 days ski mountaineering at Araphahoe Basin and other Summit County resorts. A Basin started allowing uphill access for the season last week. Other resorts will open their slopes to uphill travel when their snowmaking operations are complete.
Sebastian Foltz / |

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area kicked off ski mountaineering season last Friday, Nov. 14, opening its slopes to uphill access outside of business hours.

“As soon as we can open it up, we’re more than happy to,” ski area spokeswoman Adrienne Saia Isaac said. “We’re just as excited as members of the public to see it open. I can’t wait to get back out there and get skinning.”

Following last week’s storms the resort was able to allowing uphill access starting Friday afternoon after the lifts closed. Morning access wasn’t possible due to avalanche-mitigation work. Guests are encouraged to check access availability before heading to A-Basin as weather and conditions may dictate a need to close uphill travel. The decision to open is announced each morning at 6 a.m.

Saia Isaac said that at this point new snow and avalanche work would be the primary reasons for closure. The ski area is currently limiting uphill access to the hours outside of lift operations. Uphill access during lift operations will be allowed later in the season as more terrain opens.

The ski area asks that anyone looking to access the mountain for alpine touring sign up for A-Basin’s free uphill access pass.

“It’s a totally free pass. It takes five minutes to get,” Saia Isaac said. “It’s just a good way to communicate with our guests who use uphill access the most.”

Skiers who want a pass must sign a waiver acknowledging the ski area’s uphill access policies. A-Basin also sends email notifications to pass holders regarding access information and upcoming alpine touring events, like the mountain’s randonee series.

A spokesperson for Breckenridge Ski Resort said limited uphill access is available on Peaks 7 and 8, but that guests should call the resort’s hotline as that may change depending on snowmaking operations.

All other Summit-area resorts, including Loveland Ski Area, have yet to allow uphill access, while early-season snowmaking is still underway.

Laura Parquette, spokeswoman for Keystone Resort, said that because of recent snowfall and snowmaking the resort was “close” to offering uphill travel. Copper Mountain Resort will likely open the mountain to uphill travel in mid-December.

Under their U.S. Forest Service special-use permits, resorts are able to dictate uphill travel policies as it relates to safety concerns and other operations on their mountains.

“If (access) needs to be restricted because of snowmaking or safety, it still meets the conditions of their permit,” White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said. “From a liability perspective, they have to make things as safe as possible under the terms of their permit. Their special-use permit allows them to set the operational conditions on the mountain. That’s all part of their annual operating plan.”

The objective, Fitzwilliams said, is to make the public lands on which resorts are located as accessible as possible within reason.

“They know that these are public lands and to keep them open to the best of their ability,” he said. “Every resort needs to make sure that that is provided for. It’s something we discuss with the resorts every year.”

Continued uphill accessibility has been a concern among some in the alpine touring community, with rumors that resorts might eventually be able to charge for access.

Fitzwilliams said that there have been no proposals of that nature at any Summit County ski resort.

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