Have you considered Skiing Up in Crested Butte, or are you wondering what the heck is “Skiing up”, or “Skinning up” or “Climbing” with Alpine Touring (AT) gear? And how do you do it… ?
As if there are not enough things to do in Crested Butte when you are here… If you are a visitor or second homeowner in Crested Butte, you may have not considered Skiing up the same slopes you have only ever skied down.
First you are probably asking, why would I care about Skiing up in Crested Butte?
I guess everyone has their own reasons. I really enjoy the low impact workout of walking up the mountain in the morning watching the sun come up. It is a great aerobic workout. Bonus – you get the thrill of skiing down, getting first tracks on fresh groomed corduroy or the occasional new layer of powder.
I also go sometimes in the afternoon and it is very cool to see a spectacular sunset, and ski down in the dark (with a headlamp) to the twinkling lights of the base area.
And since I live here full time, I get try to go 3-4 times per week or more, and meet a group of regulars for coffee at the base area afterwards.
If you are only here for a short-time during the winter this may be a challenging pursuit if your main focus is Alpine Downhill skiing and you want to save your legs for a full day of skiing. But if you regularly go Nordic Skiing then you might consider adding uphill skiing into the mix.
Best Places for Skiing Up in Crested Butte
I mostly ski up on the ski mountain (CBMR). I also enjoy skiing up Snodgrass (Park at the Snodgrass trailhead parking lot – or take the Mountain Express Bus).
Skiing up Crested Butte Mountain Resort (ski mountain)
Many thanks to CBMR for allowing uphill skiing. As John Norton wrote recently in the Crested Butte News in Norton’s Notions – uphill skiing is a privilege and not all ski areas allow uphill skiing. If you have a Seasons Pass – then you are all set. Meaning you have paid for the right to ski-up and your waiver covers your liability. If not – then you can buy a Season Up Hill Pass for $100 or $10 per day. In either case, you need to know is the rules.
CBMR has posted information about uphill skiing on their website – you will find a map for uphill / downhill routes, and rules about when you can go, and most important safety guidelines. You will encounter ski patrol and CBMR employees on snowmobiles. Ski Patrol may be setting off bombs for avalanche control. You will be close to snowcats grooming the mountain. You will be skiing up while other people will be skiing down, and vice versa. You may also want to take you dog with you which has it’s own set of rules.
All of the above are potential conflicts and present the opportunity for someone to get hurt – which would impact EVERYONES ability to continue to enjoy this recreational activity.
CBMR Uphill Skiing
The Alpine Touring Gear Needed
There is a set of gear (yes you need more gear) specific for this activity. It is called “AT” or Alpine touring gear.
The Alpine Touring binding and boots allow your heel to come up when you are walking up. When you want to turn-around and ski down, you adjust the binding and the boot “locks in” to the binding just like a typical alpine ski/binding/boot set-up.
Below is a quick overview of the Alpine Touring Gear I use (I have two sets and both are Dynafit or Dynafit compatible (one set of boots are Scarpa – but work with the Dynafit bindings).
There are more and more uphill and backcountry ski races. The Elk Mountain Grand Traverse is an example of such a race. I participated in this race a number of years ago and used a Nordic gear set-up (skis had a metal edge) – but most participants are now exclusively using AT gear.
There is also an extreme niche segment of uphill ski mountaineering racing called “rando” or Randonnée which may also require technical winter rock climbing.
This segment of the ski equipment industry is evolving rapidly as there are new innovations and lighter/stronger materials being used.
Alpine Touring Boots
Special boots have dimples in the front toe to accept the front binding pins, and generally two posts in the back to lock-in the heel for skiing down (just like alpine binding/boot set-up). Boots are very light, not as supportive as an alpine boot, and made of high-tech materials.
Alpine Touring Bindings
Very light and nimble. The front of the binding has two pins on either side of the toe that will fit into boot, and a lever to lock this in. The heel of the binding provides two purposes. First when you are climbing there are typically 3 riser settings to accommodate the steepness of the slope and your heel position. On a flat terrain your heel will return to the ski like a classic Nordic ski boot set-up.
But if there is a gradual slope you can adjust the riser part of the binding to the medium setting, or the high setting. With either of these two settings your boot will not return to the ski making climbing up steep terrain easier.
Alpine Touring Skis
I also have Dynafit skis – they are very light which is great for going up, but take a little getting used to skiing down. One pair of my skis has a ski brake, the other pair has a safety cable that attaches to my ski boots.
The skins are sticky on one side and have fur on the other side. The fur side is like a short dog’s coat. If you rub it one way it is smooth, the other way the thousands of short hairs catch the snow and keep you from sliding backwards. The Dynafit skis have a little notch in the tip to accept the Dynafit skis.
The poles are adjustable so you can have longer poles going up, and then make them shorter for your ski down. The poles generally have larger baskets than alpine poles.
Buy or Rent AT Gear
You can buy or rent AT gear at The Alpineer in Downtown Crested Butte.
What to Wear Going Up
I sweat like a pig – so I don’t wear much even if it is dark, cold and windy. Here is my normal outfit:
Base Layer: Smartwool base layer on top and bottom, and ski socks. I also wear a Buff on my head instead of a hat so the heat (steam) can escape from the top of my head.
Ski Pants: I have a thin pair of Mamut bibs that have full zippers on the side that I unzip about 9” on the way up.
Top: I have a thin breathable stretchy top that blocks the wind. It also has a number of zippers that I have open for the way up.
Gloves: I have a pair of thin windstopper gloves. Sometimes my fingers will get a bit cold, then warm up after I start heating up.
Headlamp: required by CBMR so snowmobiles and snowcat operators can see you (similar to car headlights always on).
Backpack: You will need a backpack to hold “stuff” you will need.
If I skin-up during the day on Snodgrass, or in the afternoon I may only wear a base layer on my top, or add a breathable fleece vest.
What to Wear Skiing Down
It usually takes me approximately one hour to get to the top of the Paradise Lift, and depending on the route I take about one hour fifteen minutes to get to the top of the Silver Queen Lift.
When I get to the top, my gloves, Buff and layers on the top are wet with sweat. So I carry replacements in my backpack along with other stuff, see List Below:
Base Layer: I replace my base layer on my top with a dry one. Yes a bit chilly when my bare skin is exposed, but I prep for a very quick swap. I also replace Buff on my head for a windstopper hat.
Top: I take off my outer layer top (it is also wet with sweat) and put on a thin down shirt, then a shell with a hood as my outer layer.
Gloves: I replace my wet gloves with a very warm pair of mittens. They are heated mittens.
Goggles: I typically put the hood on, and zip the shell all the way up. Then I put on the goggles which helps to shield the wind as I ski down.
Before skiing down – take the skins off the bottom of your skis and also put these along with all your wet stuff in your backpack.
Other Stuff You Want in your backpack
Earbuds – I usually listen to Podcasts or music on my iPhone as I climb.
Extra Plastic bags for dogpoop. Brown poop on pristine groomed ski run is not good. Pick up the warm poo in a bag, and put in your backpack.
Dog light – your dog will need a light as well. If you dog does not respond to verbal commands you will need a leash. Having your dog run in front of a skier coming down is also not good.
In my backpack I also have an extra buff, a whistle and a green Cyalume light stick.
Just because you have AT Gear that allows you to access backcountry terrain does not mean you should. Backcountry recreation and skiing can be fun, but requires additional skills, knowledge and training. Survival and avalanche training recommended. Check out the Crested Butte Avalanche Center. http://cbavalanchecenter.org/
People often ask me: “What makes Crested Butte special?”
For sure Skiing Up in Crested Butte in Crested Butte is a very recreational activity. The popularity of this activity has increased significantly in the last few years, and one more option to provide everyone with one more cool experience.
With endless open space and recreational opportunities your adventures in Crested Butte are limitless.
Crested Butte Real Estate
No matter where your home is in Crested Butte you are less than a few minutes to a spot you can put on a pair of skis! There are plenty of luxury homes and high-end ski-in / ski-out condos at the base area and great values throughout the Crested Butte area..
In many ways the character and attitude of the early ranchers and miners in Crested Butte has transcended time. In Crested Butte the skiing is great, the scenery is awesome, the recreational activities in the Gunnison Valley are endless, and the people are warm, friendly and real.
Come to Crested Butte, ski, hike, drive a car on the ice, ride a fat bike, or consider Skiing Up in Crested Butte. Then go find a restaurant, bar or shop in town. Sit for a while, relax and enjoy striking up a conversation with a new friend – it could be the beginning of your journey…
If you have an interest in Crested Butte Real Estate and would like to start a conversation about ranches, homes, condos, land, fly fishing or enjoying life in the Crested Butte area, call me.
Global Luxury Property Specialist
Coldwell Banker Bighorn Realty
Skiing Up in Crested Butte