Uphill Access and Safety

In Colorado Ski Country the fun isn’t limited to sliding downhill. Many guests enjoy exercising amid breathtaking mountain settings before or after the lifts close. Some, but not all, ski areas allow uphill access by means of cross-country skiing, skiing or splitboarding uphill with the use of skins for alpine skis, snowshoeing, or hiking. Uphill access rules vary from resort to resort, so before you start heading uphill, make sure to know the policy of the ski area you are visiting. By following these rules, you are preserving this opportunity for all mountain users:

Extreme Terrain - Experts Only

Many Colorado ski areas feature Extreme Terrain for expert skiers and snowboarders. Some ski areas mark their extreme terrain with signs featuring two black diamonds. The Colorado Ski Safety Act defines extreme terrain as: “any place within the ski area boundary that contains cliffs with a minimum 20-foot rise over a 15-foot run, and slopes with a minimum 50 degree average pitch over a 100 foot run.”

Extreme terrain is for experts only. Those who venture into these areas without the proper skills, knowledge, gear, and a partner can end up in situations that may require rescue. If you go it alone, it may take hours (or more) for someone to find and rescue you. Always go with a partner. If you’re new to extreme terrain, take a lesson from a professional ski or snowboard instructor. They know the terrain. They can teach you the skills you need to navigate these areas safely. Always observe and obey all signs and trail closures.

Deep Snow Safety - Buddy-Up

For advanced skiers and snowboarders, fresh powder is one of the most exciting and appealing facets of the sport. However, the deep powder that many pursue can turn deadly if you are not properly prepared.  As the snow piles up, tree wells form. A tree well is a void or area of loose snow around the trunk of a tree, particularly pine trees. A deep snow or tree well immersion incident occurs when a skier or rider falls into an area of deep unconsolidated snow and becomes immobilized. Without the help of a partner, this can lead to suffocation.

If you are venturing off of the groomed run in search for powder, know that you are doing so at your own risk. Here are a few important tips for venturing off the groomed runs:

  1. Ride or ski with a partner and keep your partner in sight at all times.
  2. Ski or ride in control.
  3. Maintain plenty of space between you and the trees. Steer clear of tree wells.
  4. Skiers should remove ski pole straps
  5. Carry safety equipment including:
    • Cell phone with resort emergency number
    • Transceiver / beacon
    • Whistle
    • Shovel
    • Probe

LEARN MORE at: Deep Snow and Tree Well Safety: www.DeepSnowSafety.org

Backcountry - Assume Nothing!

Many ski resorts in Colorado Ski Country feature access points to backcountry skiing and snowboarding. These out-of-bounds areas are lands owned by the U.S. Forest Service and are available for public use. However, terrain beyond the ski area boundary is not managed or maintained by ski areas or area patrol. In fact, the Colorado Ski Safety Act states that ski areas assume no responsibility for skiers and snowboarders going beyond the ski area boundary. 

Avalanches, unmarked obstacles, and other natural hazards exist beyond the ski area boundary. Rescue in the backcountry can be costly and may take several hours­ – but in some cases it might not available at all. Knowledge and good decision making are the two most important tools to be equipped with before heading beyond the ski area boundary. Skiers and snowboarders need to have a solid understanding of avalanche safety, as well as the proper gear including a beacon, probe, shovel, and a partner, as well as knowledge of the area.

Most ski areas provide free avalanche beacon clinics and avalanche education classes.  The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) is a leading organization dedicated to providing backcountry users with updated forecasts and safety education. By taking steps to educate yourself and your friends on backcountry and avalanche safety, you are better ensuring yourself a safer experience.

LEARN MORE at: Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC)