Posted on November 24 2018
Skinning in bounds might not be as dangerous as Avalanche terrain, but there are still many things to be aware of.
Uphill skiing inbounds is a great way to get familiar with gear and to get a good workout. However, it is not a risk-free activity as some might think. Once the lifts close at your local ski hill a slew of mountain ops personnel get busy. Snowcats groom, ski patrollers mitigating avalanches, and snowmakers blowing snow are only a few of the things going on. So while the potential to trigger an Avalanche is not as high as it would be in the backcountry, there is a ton of activity during non-operational hours which pose a different set of risks. As a snowcat operator, here are a few things to keep in mind if you choose to utilize our wonderful terrain when the lifts aren’t spinning.
We are grateful for our states generous attitude towards the uphill community, and we want to keep it that way!
I am often surprised at how comfortable people are being close to a snowcat. Not only are these machines heavy and potentially deadly, but visibility is often zero for drivers. It’s like operating a heavy piece of machinery inside of a snowglobe. It's extremely nerve racking when a skier suddenly appears or even worse, ends up on the blade of your cat! It’s super helpful when uphillers wear a headlamp and if you choose to skin with headphones, keep the volume down slightly so that you can hear us coming. Often we are hustling as fast as we can to get projects finished, especially in the morning. It helps a lot if people are aware and willing to move so we can keep working and keep everyone safe!
Inside the Snowglobe
It is important to be aware of these hazards and respect ski areas’ rules with regards to uphill travel. The majority of ski areas in the U.S. allow uphill travel in some capacity which is pretty amazing. Some restrict access to a particular route or to a certain time of day and this information can be found on most ski area websites. For instance, on Aspen Mountain where I work, we allow uphill travel before 9am when the lifts open on a designated route (Spar Gulch for those of you who are familiar with the area). If avalanche mitigation or a winch cat is operating uphill routes may be closed or altered. It is important to read and respect posted signs and to stay as close to the uphill route markers as possible. We want everyone to have fun but more importantly to stay safe!
Be aware of snowmobiles and give them plenty of space!
We love skiing which is why we work where we do, a friendly wave goes a long way. Get out to your local hill and get your legs ready to suffer in the backcountry!
- Joseph DeMoor
You can find Joseph on Instagram as @josedemoor
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