Breckenridge, Keystone ski resorts look to regulate ski mountaineering
Ski resort uphill-travel policy is a relatively new concept. But with the rise in popularity of backcountry and resort-based ski mountaineering, it’s become an increasing necessity to regulate access at resorts across the country, especially in the hours when the lifts stop spinning. Even the generally less-restrictive Arapahoe Basin Ski Area decided to adopt an uphill policy last season to address concerns about increasing numbers of guests ski/snowboard hiking or ski mountaineering.
“We really don’t want to restrict it, if we don’t have to,” Arapahoe Basin communications manager Adrienne Saia Isaac said. “We just saw that there were a lot more people doing it. We want people to enjoy the mountain in a way that is safe for them.”
While some mountains around the country have decided to capitalize on the growing popularity of ski mountaineering by charging a fee to those looking to tour when the lifts aren’t running, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, A-Basin and Keystone have all embraced the growing popularity and allow uphill traffic free of charge, as long as participants obey guidelines and follow the skier responsibility code.
A-Basin and Copper Mountain both require guests to acquire a hiking pass and sign a waiver, but they do not charge for the permit, which is valid all season.
Those familiar with resort uphill travel policies should be aware of a few minor changes adopted this season.
Keystone and Breckenridge will no longer allow anyone to bring their pets along while ski hiking. Dogs are also prohibited from being on the slopes at Copper. A-Basin will continue to allow uphill traveling skiers to have their pets accompany them under voice command when the mountain is not otherwise operational.
Breckenridge will no longer allow uphill traffic while lifts are running. Breck, Copper and Keystone are limiting uphill travel to the hours outside of their normal operation.
The three resorts are currently closed to uphill traffic while they continue to focus on snowmaking operations.
“Until our snowmaking is completed we do not offer uphill access,” Copper Mountain communications manager Austyn Williams told the Daily. “We just don’t open it due to safety.”
Officials from Breckenridge and Keystone echoed the sentiment. Representatives from the three resorts said they will make announcements when they resume off-hours uphill travel.
A-Basin is currently open to uphill traffic in the mornings prior to opening and after the lifts close in the afternoon. Isaac said they will allow uphill traffic during regular business hours on High Noon, as soon as more terrain is open.
“Currently due to traffic and limited terrain, uphill access is limited to non-operating hours,” Isaac said.
Williams expects Copper to open the mountain to uphill traffic in mid-December. Officials at Breckenridge and Keystone said they have yet to decide when uphill travel will resume.
They along with Isaac encouraged anyone interested in uphill travel to check their websites for up-to-date information on accessibility.
Keystone and Breckenridge also have phone lines to check current uphill-travel access. A-Basin will post restrictions, if any, at its base area.
“Patrol makes the call every morning,” Isaac said.
Update: Friday Nov. 8
Keystone is now open to uphill travel during non-operating hours (mornings and afternoons). Uphill travel must be completed prior to lifts running.
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