While downhill skiing and snowboarding take the lion’s share of the spotlight in Aspen, a variety of winter recreation alternatives including uphilling, snowshoeing and nordic skiing are increasingly popular with locals and guests alike. These winter alternatives can be great options for those looking for new outdoor experiences!
Uphilling, skinning or ski touring is essentially hiking up the mountain on modified skis or a split snowboard. This method of scaling our four mountains includes attaching “skins” (adhesive strips) to the bottoms of skis that allow the ski to move freely forward but catch the snow and “stick” instead of sliding backwards. This method also requires special skis with bindings that release from the heels, (or a special snowboard that splits left and right for each foot).
Several local ski shops including Four Mountain Sports, Performance Ski, the Ute Mountaineer and Cripple Creek Backcountry rent this equipment.
As the snowpack rises, trail runners and hikers turn to snowshoes. Modern snowshoes are highly portable, lightweight, made of fabric and metal and attach easily to winter boots. Being able to set foot on top of the show rather than sink through it makes all the difference in the backcountry. A day hike becomes a treat rather than a slog!
Snowshoes can be found at almost all backcountry equipment retailers including Ute Mountaineer and Cripple Creek Backcountry.
Nordic or cross-country skis have been transporting Aspenites around town and between the mountains for well over 100 years. Both classic and skate-skiing techniques are in full swing during the winters out here.
In fact, though the Winter Olympics Nordic events have always been the domain of the Europeans, the U.S. Ski Team has made serious strides in competition recently, thanks in part to local athletes Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman.
The Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System boasts over 60 miles of trails stretching between and through the towns of Aspen and Snowmass Village, many of which are groomed daily and several that are dog-friendly.
Renters should head to the Aspen Golf Course or the Snowmass Golf Course for rentals and more information.
What’s the appeal?
If you follow the rules, uphilling can get you access to our ski mountains including on-mountain restaurants and earn you one free downhill run, i.e. save you the cost of a lift ticket. Any further lift access does require a lift ticket however.
All of the above offer terrific exercise, giving you the benefits of being outdoors and the freedom to go where you please. Aspen/Snowmass has tons of recreational trails outside of the ski mountains themselves that can be accessed this way. In fact, most people going on hut trips use ski mountaineering including nordic and uphilling techniques to get from one hut to the next.
Regardless of the method you choose, book your vacation with Gareth, then get out there and enjoy the best of winter in the Rocky Mountains!