Winning the uphill battle
December 20, 2017
There was a time when I would see people earning their turns and insist to my friends on the chair ride up that I would never do that.
Why would someone ever want to walk up the mountain? I would say this as someone who's not the best hiker and never particularly enjoyed hiking. Even carrying skis from the bus stop up to the gondola literally tires me out — and I miss my snowboard in those moments. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever fit in Aspen saying things like that.
I'm primarily a snowboarder but ski occasionally, as well. I can get down most things skiing but sometimes it isn't the prettiest. My coworker said, "I thought you said you were a good skier," and I had to correct him and say, "No, I said I can ski, I never said I was 'good at it.'"
Being good at something in Aspen has an entirely different meaning to it than anywhere else I've lived. I thought I was a "good" snowboarder and all my Midwest relatives think that I'm a "great snowboarder." But I'm just average here in Aspen. Each day I get inspired by the 80-plus-year-olds who are more fit than I'll ever be.
Having only lived in Aspen about a year and a half, I have definitely picked up its growing uphilling culture. As The Aspen Times' photographer, I feel it's my duty to give the people what they want, and correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that people really embrace uphilling and love it here, so I figure people will appreciate some uphilling photos.
I was fully set on getting a splitboard with the mentality that I can get down anything on a snowboard and I can't get down everything on skis. When I polled people with more expertise on uphilling, almost all of them said to go with a ski AT (alpine touring) setup and not a splitboard. Since I've been on a shopaholic buying spree lately, I jumped in and just bought a brand new ski-touring set-up.
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My first experience uphilling was actually on Independence Pass last year, but I'll save that for a beginning backcountry story for you all at a later date. I went up Snowmass Mountain a couple of weeks ago with my friend Allison, who I went to high school with in Minnesota. I barely know my downhill ski setup because I've been snowboarding so long, so this new uphill setup was totally foreign to me. There should be a "Dynafit for Dummies" book, or maybe I should write one if it doesn't exist already. At first, I thought the bindings were incredibly easy to work, but as I started walking I found that my right foot was swiveling back and forth. Allison tried helping me, but I didn't want her to wait on me any more than she already had. I insisted we kept going even though my right foot kept swiveling and turning my knee/ankle into an uncomfortable position.
After battling with my twisting binding and recognizing how out-of-shape I am, I finally looked up and took in my surroundings.
Skinning is amazing!
It opens up an entirely different time of day to be on the mountain, and to all the photographers out there, we all appreciate an early or late golden hour each day. It's incredibly peaceful to be on the mountain when the hordes of skiers and snowboarders have gone for the day. It truly shocks me how much I enjoy going up the mountain by my own manpower. I also enjoy it because I'm rewarded by skiing down. These lightweight skis and bindings have a completely different feel from my normal alpine setup, almost like cross-country skis underneath me and significantly less stable. There might be Jerry of the Day footage somewhere of me coming down the ski runs, but I fully plan on continuing to happily pursue the uphill lifestyle.