Uphill access at Steamboat Resort prohibited during operating hours, requires pass
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the 2020-21 season, uphill access at Steamboat Resort is now only permitted before 9 a.m. and after lifts close at 4:30 p.m. and will require a $20 season pass.
Uphill access will not be allowed when the resort opens Dec. 1, but an opening will be announced when conditions permit. All information and changes about the uphill policy can be found at steamboat.com/uphill.
Due to the increasing popularity of uphill access, Steamboat Resort announced in a virtual town hall Monday that uphill travel will not be allowed during operating hours. Additionally, an armband, which permits uphill use, will now cost $20 for the season, even for season pass holders and employees. Half of the proceeds collected from armband purchases will be donated to Routt County Search and Rescue.
The armbands and a signed waiver have been required of users in the past and must be worn by everyone traveling uphill at any time. Last year, the resort gave out 2,500 armbands. There is no intent to limit the number of people who can get an armband, but a massive increase in demand could result in a cutoff in the future.
Additionally, users cannot travel uphill on night skiing terrain while it’s open. They can use other terrain during night skiing hours.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Vice President of Mountain Operations Dave Hunter cited a “tremendous, large increase” in uphill use, growing 300% over the past five years and 20% over the past two years. The increase in uphill traffic prompted the changes to the policy.
Uphill skiing will be permitted when the mountain closes in the spring, which was not the case this past year.
“We expect that uphill access will continue to grow, not just this year, but moving forward,” Hunter said. “We feel the need for additional safety protocols. Every year, we evaluate our uphill policy internally, and with the Forest Service, our partners, to identify practices that will keep our uphill users, our guests and our mountain crews as safe as possible.”
By comparison, Eldora requires an uphill season pass, which costs $179, or a day pass for $25. Monarch Mountain charges a one-time $20 administrative fee to those who don’t already hold a season pass.
“By charging a fee, we can more easily identify who is participating in the program as well as engage with the uphill community about the policy in the future,” Hunter said. “We anticipate more uphill users this year in response to COVID, and many of the users may be new to the sport. By charging a fee, we can make sure these new users are familiar with and follow resort policies.”
In order to obtain an armband, people can go to steamboat.com/uphill to pay the fee and fill out the waiver, which will be available when uphill access is opened. Two days after filling out the waiver, users can pick up their armband at the main ticket office.
Uphill travelers are encouraged to use the same recommended routes as past years, which are noted on the website. The resort also is asking uphill users to refrain from gathering at the base, along the trail or at any resort facility such as decks. Hunter also announced dogs will not be allowed to accompany uphill users this winter.
Sarah Jones, director of sustainability and community engagement for Ski Corp., moderated the virtual town hall over Zoom, which was attended by more than 200 people.
Many participants of the call were happy with the policy changes, including Zoom user Zach C.
“This seems totally reasonable,” he wrote in the chat section. “Thank you. If you want free uphill, head to the backcountry. If you want groomed, controlled uphill, pay $20. Not that big of a deal.”
Steamboat Resort Ski Patrol staff will be on the lookout for armbands and uphill users to ensure all policies are being followed. Failure to comply could result in a suspension of uphill or total mountain access for a period of time.
The resort also is partnering with Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation to put on the Town Challenge Ski Ascent Series, but the fate of Cody’s Challenge has yet to be determined.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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Steamboat Springs is expected to finish off July with slightly more precipitation than in previous years.