It’s little wonder that after I wrote a series on 12 Reasons I Ski the Backcountry, the snow gods saw fit to prove that resorts also have their place. Oh ha ha, good one, Ullr and cronies! I can laugh about it too, since the whole scenario appeals to my darkened sense of humor. That, and I still have frequent memories of near-drowning experiences in backcountry powder from last season. It all equals out to an average year, over a ten year timeline…
However, facing the facts this year has led to a disproportionate amount of inbounds uphill travel. The fact is, this season, backcountry travelers face very thin snow and plenty of rocks in late December. Trying to ski the slightly thicker snow levels in many steeper chutes and couloirs is like playing Russian Roulette with three bullets in your six shooter. Conditions there just aren’t prime.
So, people who still want to ski in the fashion to which they’ve become accustomed – some uphill effort preceding their downhill skiing – have had fewer than the usual options. Conditions have pushed bc users, if with reluctance, inbounds. Grooming machines have packed the snow down tightly, so that’s where the snow has remained. And all this grooming has provided safety from the multi-layer death snow sandwich currently sitting on the hills. With safety and consistently rock-free conditions has come the anomaly:
I’ve skied uphill inbounds at a few areas over the years. Not a lot, but enough to have absorbed the scene – a relative dearth of uphill travelers. But, in no other year have I witnessed the numbers of uphill travelers that I’ve seen so far during the 2011/2012 season. Sometimes 6 to 8 different people over the course of hours, more if I’ve had a very long ski day. Maybe these users have always been at the resorts, putting in uphill laps. Dunno. But I would guess that, were there some decent snow coverage out there, less human powered skiers would be using the resorts that permit uphill travel, such as Brighton.
It’s hardly reached the breaking point, but with the recent opening of both the Milly and Great Western lifts at Brighton, there has suddenly been an influx of downhillers to mingle with the uphillers. Rather than letting incidents flare up and create any sort of unwanted tension, act wise. Be aware. Avoid blind corners created by trees at bends in the trail. Stick to the edges of the runs where feasible. Don’t stop where you can’t be seen from above. Do things that make sense.
Brighton is obviously more concerned with paying customer’s happiness than some uphillers, but with considerate action, all can have a fine day out. Towards continuing to allow that end, Brighton has implemented some rules to keep things operating smoothly for all user groups. If you’ve been making use of inbounds real estate to get your ‘backcountry’ turns lately, you’ll want to stay abreast of the Brighton Uphill Policy. Check the guidelines at the link.
Play it smart out there, because in this snow starved season, it’s good to have a place to go where you need not melt a stick of P-tex onto your sticks to repair the gouges after each outing. That, and it’s good to get to know the course for the Powderkeg rando race before race day… Since rad resorts like Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Solitude, and Alta don’t even allow uphill traffic, it’s nice to have a sweet resource like this!