As we at the October Country Inn well know, lift-ticket prices at ski resorts have been costly for some time. Lately, lift-ticket prices have dramatically increased. It’s no surprise that backcountry skiing and riding is the fastest growing segment of the snowsports industry. It’s easy to gear up for backcountry. There is widespread availability of Alpine Touring gear (ski bindings that have both a free-heel setting for uphill travel, and a fixed-heel setting for downhill travel). Additionally, splitboard sales have greatly increased. A splitboard is a snowboard that splits into two halves like two skis. It has a central binding positions for uphill travel, and can then be joined back together with binding positions shifted to each end for downhill travel. Consequently, “wrong way” travel on local ski slopes is becoming commonplace.
Most ski areas allow uphill travel on specified trails.
If you’re new to backcountry skiing or riding, take advantage of a ski area’s controlled environment. Groomed trails are easier to safely check equipment, practice technique, and develop physical conditioning before heading into more wild backcountry terrain. Fortunately for our guests at the October Country Inn, all of the nearby ski resorts allow uphill traffic. Each also has differing rules and restrictions. For example, Killington and Pico Ski Resorts both require an “uphill travel pass” that is free for season pass holders or $20 for the season. Killington also designates certain routes be followed. Other local ski resorts, like Okemo and Magic Mountain, don’t charge for uphill travel and have less restrictions on trail use. Also, most ski area’s are tolerant of trail use during off hours, including night-time use. Many ski areas allow dogs as well. Before venturing off, check a mountain’s uphill policy on their website.
Start at a ski resort, graduate to backcountry.
Even if backcountry isn’t your thing, ditching the chairlift—besides being a lot less expensive—provides a different perspective of a mountain that you have skied for years. How about a late night run under a full moon, or early morning laps with your dog? Or, start at Killington’s Ramshead Lodge, travel uphill alongside Header, Easy Street, and Swirl. Go past the top chairlift station and up Old Swirl to the top of Ramshead Peak. Duck into the woods toward Pico Peak for a brief downhill to the Pico Peak interconnect trail. Convert to uphill again and climb the interconnect trail to the Pico Mountain ski area. Convert back to downhill mode and head to the base lodge where you can catch the local shuttle for a ride back to Killington.