Ahead of the curve: Sunlight not only Colorado ski area charging for uphill access

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Uphill skinning or hiking has become more popular at ski areas all across Colorado, including Sunlight Mountain Resort where a paid pass is now required to do so.
Glenwood Springs Post Independent file photo

Sunlight Mountain Resort isn’t alone among Colorado ski areas to charge for uphill access during the ski season, but it’s definitely ahead of the curve in that regard.

According to an online listing compiled by the trade association Colorado Ski Country USA, five out of 22 member ski areas, including Sunlight, have adopted pay-to-play policies when it comes to skinning, snowshoeing or hiking up the mountain.

For those that don’t charge, some restrict uphill access to non-operating hours only, and most direct uphill traffic to certain routes so as to limit conflicts with downhill skiers and snowboarders.

Sunlight announced in late November that it would begin charging for uphill access on Compass Mountain this season. The upper portion of the ski area is operated under a lease with the U.S. Forest Service, while the base area and parking lot is private property.

Day or night, uphill skiers at Sunlight are now required to visibly display a special pass. Season passholders and those buying day tickets will not be charged extra for uphill access, but non-passholders are now asked to pay $10 a day or buy a $50 season uphill pass.

The majority of resorts, including Aspen Ski Co.’s four mountains — Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain — allow free uphill access. However, that access is restricted to specific routes with certain time restrictions in most cases. Uphill access is not allowed on Aspen Mountain during operating hours when lifts are running.

Vail Resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek and the Summit County ski areas of Breckenridge and Keystone, have varied policies as well, but allow uphill access for free.

For the Ski Country areas that charge for uphill access, Sunlight is not the most expensive. Eldora ski area near Nederland charges $149 for a season uphill pass, or $25 for a day pass.

Arapahoe Basin, Cooper and Monarch charge less than Sunlight, at $30, $25 and $20, respectively, for a season uphill ticket.

Reaction to Sunlight’s decision to being charging for uphill access has been mixed, based on comments posted to the Post Independent’s Facebook page.

“I call bs …” wrote Joe Mollica. “That mountain belongs to us as taxpayers … if you don’t use the lift, they cannot charge you.”

Countered Sean de Moraes, “I’m all for it (the fee). You’re crossing private property to get to leased land … parking in their private lot, skiing their groomed trails down and using their warming hut up top.”

And, added Derrick Wyle, “I think it’s a fair idea. Just because you’re not sitting on a lift, you still are using the amenities Sunlight provides and maintains.”


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