Uphilling gains in popularity | AspenTimes.com

Uphilling gains in popularity

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in Winter in Aspen, The Aspen Times' guide to local recreation and entertainment. Pick up your free copy today on newsstands throughout town.

So you want to be an uphiller? Then you picked the right place.

Uphilling — that's the colloquial term for hiking in the winter — continues to soar in popularity in the Aspen area.

On any given ski day, chairlift passengers might gaze below and catch a glimpse of a solo uphiller, or a group, plodding up a ski run. It's not the most glamorous activity to be had, and it can be downright painful on the lungs and legs. But with it comes a sweet reward — the satisfaction of striking the right physical and mental rhythm on the ascent and the ease of going down on skis, snowboard or foot.

Aspen Skiing Co., which operates the four local ski areas, has taken notice, as well.

Starting this winter, the company will have uphill rental gear at Four Mountain Sports in Aspen for the first time. And it also will be running two locals' clinics through its ski school for uphilling.

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How you get up or down is a matter of preference, but there are multiple options:

• Shoes or boots — Indeed, you don't need to spend a lot of money on uphilling. Just throw on some running shoes or hiking boots, and you can uphill with the best of them. If you're on a ski run, however, it helps to have ski poles and groomed runs to get up. And if it's a powder day, you might be in for a demanding day on the hill with just shoes and boots.

• Snowshoes — This is the appropriate gear for those who plan to walk or run up the mountain, especially when the snow is deep.

• Skis — Put some climbing skins on your skis and you're good to go. Take them off for the ski down and enjoy the descent.

• Splitboard — This is a snowboard that functions as a pair of skis for the climb up. Attach the makeshift skis to each other at the top and cruise down as a snowboarder.

• Traction devices — Stabilicers, crampons and other devices you strap onto your shoes are ideal when the track is fast or icy.

Where to go:

• Smuggler Mountain — This is the easiest trek up, and it doesn't require skis or a splitboard. In fact, we highly encourage you not to bring that equipment unless you're prepared for weird looks about your gear. It's best to use shoes, boots, stabilicers and occasionally showshoes when making the 1.5-mile, 800-foot ascent to the observation deck. Those more daring will bring a sled for the ride down.

• Aspen Mountain — The uphill route is from Little Nell to Bingo Slot to Spar to Silver Bell to the summit. Uphill traffic must be at the summit by 9 a.m. No dogs are permitted uphill on Aspen Mountain in the winter. You can ski or snowboard down or enjoy a ride on the Silver Queen Gondola to the bottom.

• Aspen Highlands — The preferred route is from Jerome Bowl to Park Avenue to Memory Lane to the Merry Go Round restaurant. If uphillers are traveling farther up Aspen Highlands, Skico asks that you pass Merry Go Round by 9 a.m.

• Buttermilk — The designated routes up Main Buttermilk and Tiehack are marked and segregated. There are no restrictions on West Buttermilk. The main route is closed during the X Games.

• Snowmass — There are no restrictions with regard to time or route (dogs are permitted on leashes).

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