Whether you’re new to ski touring or just looking for a way to train for those big days in the backcountry, there’s really no safer way to get some vert and turns under your legs than skinning up the resort. Ski touring in the resort may not offer the untracked powder or aesthetic lines many of us associate with backcountry skiing, but it’s a great option for getting your legs strong and skinning technique dialed for when it is game-on in the backcountry. Not to mention, it’s a good way to get a quick early morning or evening workout without having to step foot on a treadmill.
Every ski resort has its own uphill travel policy, so it’s always a good idea to check with the resort you plan on ski touring at to make sure you know exactly what each resort’s stated policy is. It’s also important to be courteous of grooming and snow-making operations to ensure the resort is able to maintain an open uphill traffic policy. Here in Park City, we’re lucky to have access to some of the best lift-accessed and backcountry ski terrain in the Intermountain West. And, depending on the time of year, there are a few resorts with open uphill policies within striking distance of the Park City area. Here are a few of our favorite resorts to skin up, along with each resort’s uphill policy.
Park City Mountain Resort Uphill Policy
Park City Mountain Resort is open to uphill travel along a designated route accessed from the Park City base area. The designated route begins on Homerun and stays looker’s left of the First Time Lift and eventually tops out at the Angle Station. Park City Mountain Resort only allows travel on this route beginning on December 15th and ending on closing day between the hours of 6:00 PM and 8:30 AM daily. This makes this route one of the best options if you want to get out for an evening headlamp tour or dawn patrol before spending a day skiing in-bounds with friends and family. The ease of access and relatively easy grade make this route a great first tour for beginner backcountry skiers or more experienced skiers looking to get multiple laps in the mornings or evenings. While PCMR does permit uphill travel on the Park City side, it should be noted that the Canyons side is closed to all uphill traffic.
Deer Valley Uphill Policy
Deer Valley is closed to all uphill travel during the ski season. Nordic skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and ski touring are not allowed within resort boundaries before, during, or after operational hours throughout the ski season. Deer Valley asks that skiers and other uphill users respect closures, since they perform snow making, grooming, and avalanche mitigation work during the off-hours.
Brighton Uphill Policy
While not officially within the Park City area, Brighton is arguably the best resort to ski tour at in the Wasatch Mountain Range. As the crow flies, Brighton is not far from Park City, but it’s about an hour drive from Park City during the winter due to road closures. Located at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon above Salt Lake City, Brighton resort is on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, which the resort has partnered with to develop a skier-friendly uphill travel policy.
Part of that uphill policy consists of a traffic light mounted above the ticket window on the Brighton center. When the light is green, skiers are allowed to skin up the resort during operational hours by utilizing designated routes on Great Western and Millicent. When the light is yellow, skiers should exercise caution and treat the terrain and snowpack as unpatrolled backcountry. When the light is red, no uphill travel is permitted within the resort’s boundaries—this is mainly in effect due to high avalanche danger. As always, Brighton asks that skiers respect closures, stay off of freshly groomed runs, and give snow-making and grooming operations a wide berth while skinning and skiing.
Alta Uphill Policy
Sitting at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, which is about an hour-and-a-half drive from Park City, Alta is known for getting significant amounts of early season snowfall due to its high elevation and geographic location. This makes Alta one of the best ski resorts in the Wasatch Mountain Range to get out for an early season ski tour. Being that the majority of Alta is on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Alta maintains an open uphill policy before and after its operating season. During the operating season, which generally runs between the end of November and mid April, Alta is closed to all uphill traffic, with the exception of the summer road that can be accessed from the Grizzly Gulch Trailhead. A popular early season tour at Alta begins at the base of the Collins Lift and runs up to the top of Germania pass, where you’ll have the option to ski either back into Collins Gulch or Albion Basin.
If you decide to ditch the chairlift and hit the skin track this winter, it’s always a good idea to wear brightly colored outerwear and a headlamp to stay visible to snowcat operators and other resort employees. With that, you cannot count on ski patrol to assist you in the event of an accident, so it’s good to be in the habit of practicing safe backcountry protocol and always carry a shovel, probe, beacon, and first-aid kit in the event an accident does occur. In addition to physically preparing yourself for future backcountry tours, skinning uphill in the resort can also be a great time to practice beacon drills and other backcountry rescue techniques for when you do venture beyond the resort and deeper into the backcountry—now go get it!
By: Jeff Sorenson, Senior Editor & Content Manager