Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Vermont Uphill Skiing Policies


Being from biking circles I always thought the term 'randonèe' referred to a bunch of aging fat nutters who pretend a weekend ride from Paris to Brest and back (or, Boston-Montreal-Boston) constitutes some sort of race. Only when Andy took the term on as part of his web-Avatar did I become aware that randonèe refers also to a bunch of young super fit nutters who like to race up random Alps (almost always in France) on skinny short skis and whiz back down again.

I'd never seen it in action until one fateful day last winter.

While getting my aprè Grand Marnier on with the Nor'easter crew at some stank hole bar in Brighton, UT, we witnessed the phenomenon.  Never mind the double.... no triple entendre, it was there that we met the infamous man of mystery Gui ("Hey, I'm Gui. Gui like Guy") and made meilleur amis with a bunch of locals.  Mormon computer programers by day, they were in reality Francophile uphill racers by night. It was a pretty good night. Justin bought the Marnier, Brad won some cupcakes in a raffle, and I had stars in my eyes for a sport with a whole new wardrobe of spandex to covet.

Looking back, it's painfully obvious 1.) how deep our ski-bum roots go into darkest France, although oddly there's no French direct translation for the term; and 2.) I may have digressed a bit from my original intent, which was to not simply to inform the readership on the storred history of skiing as an uphill sport, but rather proudly share with you my recent expose on the legality of skinning-to-ski Vermont's resorts while others are paying for concierge service to the top.

But, like Edison and that other guy, usually someone else has your bright idea first. It seems Vermont Sports has already published on uphill policy in Vermont, and the US Ski Mountaineering Association has also put together a more global review.

While these will give you a good feel for the industry-wide randomness associated with dawn patrolling your favorite too-costly-to ski resort, neither offers us a comprehensive list of which ski areas will welcome us, turn a blind eye, or slash our tires while we lap their mid-mountain lifts unmolested by Chilean J1 visa ticket takers.

Uphill skiing is obviously the bane of every liability insurer, and surely makes even the most easy-going ski patroller grind their teeth and think about beating up hippies. But, as far as I'm concerned, it's not important what they think or say. It's important what they do.

So here's what I've put together for you. This is a list that demarcates the official legal policies of Vermont resorts on the subject of uphill skiing, and compares that to actual conversations I had with infamous resort lifties on the same subject. Some of you may know these lifties by name. I have made no effort to protect their identities, as their van-down-by-the-river-lifestyles make them almost entirely immune to corporate reprisal.

ResortOfficial Online Policy:Lifty says:
Magic MountainyesMilly: Dubious.
Mad River GlennoRodd: Hey, it's better than waiting around in -20 degrees for the single chair.
Burke Mountain ResortnoZolie: I guess if it's cool with you, it's cool with me…
Stowe Mountain ResortnoArmando: No hablo ingles?
Smugglers' Notch ResortnoResort Director: Yes, if we're closed. But don’t go up our trails or come down our trails, or park in our parking lot, or stick around and drink any Grand Marnier afterwards. Also I hate your dog.
Sugarbush ResortnoJim, my old building super: Do it. Stay at my ex-wife's house in Warren. Everyone else does. Whore.
Middlebury College Snow BowlnoneTad: Why skin? You already drove to the top.
Jay Peak ResortyesEmile: [Surly look]
Bolton Valley ResortnoUVM Dropout: Nothing a J between friends can't make me forget..
Killington ResortyesMaria Von Trapp: Happy day!
Mount SnowyesAnthony the Masshole: Sounds like exercise.
Bromley Mountain Resortno[sorry, I've never actually met anyone who has skied here]
Pico MountainnoneEveryone: Why pay for the hog when you can have the bacon for free?
Stratton Mountain ResortyesPat: Sure, but nobody has time after the drive from NYC.
Suicide 6yesHugh: Use the side of the trail and buy a bumper sticker on your way home. Have fun!
Okemo Mountain ResortnoneKent: Why would you want to?

So yeah... maybe I haven't had time to talk to most of these lifties. Or any. But I'm pretty sure Zolie would be totally on board with me paraphrasing our imaginary conversation. I think the best thing to do is take your input on where YOU'VE managed a great day heading uphill on one of Vermont's infamous in-bounds resorts. Doesn't really matter what you did once you got the top, only that you got there unmolested.

Also, since I seem to have had a lot of free time on my hands today, I made a second list that may be even more useful than the first - Pet friendly Vermont ski areas, as defined by official resort policy or the presence of pet friendly lodging within a 15 mile drive. As those of you with stunning basset hounds and beautiful wives know, the dawn patrol lifestyle isn't for everyone. Sometimes you gotta do it up fancy. Happy wife, happy life.

I was shocked, while browsing the Killington site, to find that this outstanding Vermont ski resort (yes, I know I recently referred to Kmart as a leper colony) has a 100% pet friendly lodge. Awesome. So Killington, expect me and my drinking hound next time we apre. But not with Gui. No ski area should ever be Gui friendly.

Resort Pet Friendly Lodging Pet Friendly LODGE
Magic Mountain yes
Mad River Glen yes
Burke Mountain Resort yes
Stowe Mountain Resort yes
Smugglers' Notch Resort no no
Sugarbush Resort yes
Middlebury College Snow Bowl no
Jay Peak Resort scary
Bolton Valley Resort yes
Killington Resort yes yes
Mount Snow yes, but site plays annoying music from some masshole's ipod
Bromley Mountain Resort yes
Pico Mountain no
Stratton Mountain Resort no
Okemo Mountain Resort no


  1. So... thanks to your hard work (this is a sincere thank you) we kinda know where they "allow" uphill traffic, but how many of them, in your experience, do not require buying a ticket (full price or otherwise)?

  2. What we can assume is that a 'no' in the chart above means you're obligated to buy a day pass to be on open resort snow.

    That said, most of Vermont's ski areas slopes are rented from the state or feds, and as long as you're up to date on your taxes logic would dictate that you're welcomed to use public land to ascent closed trails or hiking trails to take advantage of resort sidecountry.

    A 'yes' above means go for it sans ticket. But don't be surprised if we start to see all those 'no's selling single ascent tickets to their once illegal sidecountries.

    For now, it's all about precedent. And let me know if you know otherwise about a particular resort. I'm glad to make amendments and get this right!

    1. Although the ski areas are on state/fed lands they are given licenses which allow them to control the land's use. So attempts to go GED lawyer on the local sheriff are at your own peril. You may find yourself in a Rutland jail cell making constitutional arguments to a hobo.

    2. i got my law degree in a box of cracker jax thank you very much.

  3. Actually I'm surprised there are so many yes's on the list. As far as the no's are concerned, my pals tell me it's better to ask forgiveness than permission.

    Thanks for clearing up the meaning of randonee. For all these years I had thought it was French for "can't tele."

  4. Hugh Hermann December 21 2012 Suicide Six

    We welcome uphill skinners before the lifts open so long as they climb
    on the trail edges.........please buy an item at the ski shop or a beverage
    or snack at the cafeteria in return

  5. Thanks Andy and others who posted. My girlfriend and I have been asking around about local ski hills that allow "up hill skiing". We recently moved here from Montana and are excited to ski Vermont. In Montana, there are resorts that openly allow skinning up and others that would meet you with a shot gun if you tried (I'm only kinda of kidding). I pasted a link to an article that was written about a deadly avalanche that killed three skiers at Steven's Pass in Washington. Very unfortunate story, but a good reminder about safe back country practices. This blog is a great resource! I look forward to meeting you all in the hills. Happy holidays and be safe.



    1. Thanks Jon. We should always be thinking about avy risk. Sidecountry is backcountry.

  6. Uphill skiing at Bromley is most definitely allowed. I did it today, and I seen lots of other people doing it too.

    1. I'm glad he's never heard of anyone that's skied at the Big B. More for us!

    2. Oh and at Bromley it is allowed during business hours.

    3. Thanks for the info Silver.