When it comes to uphill skiing, we’ve got the goods to give you a workout, fresh tracks and a sunrise view. It’s a unique experience to be on the snow before the mountain officially opens. You get to see the final touches that bring the mountain to life for our daily skiers: ski patrol is readying runs, lift operators are brushing off chairs and snowcats are laying their final marks for the day.

At Steamboat, you can get a free uphill pass by filling out a form and dropping it off at the Welcome Center in Gondola Square. (Do this the day before you want to skin.) Skinning starts at any time, but I prefer clicking in at about 6 a.m. It’s dark out, cold and usually fairly quiet on the skin up. If you wait until 7 a.m., you’ll find more people and activity on the mountain to keep you distracted from the workout — a climb of 1,100 to 2,200 feet — before the mountain opens.

There are a few routes that you can follow to the top of the Christie Lift or the gondola building. I prefer starting at the base and working my way to Vogue. The base area, otherwise known as Headwall, will get you going. It’s not the steepest, but as you wipe last night’s sleep out of your eyes, you’ll get your heart beating. Snowmobiles and snowcats will be moving around, so stay to one side of the run. It’s also good to have a blinky-light on so others can easily see you.

As Headwall levels out, set your sight on Vogue, which is steep but not as steep as See Me. Your uphill work will get harder here, so keep pushing and make sure you take a few moments to look back on the lights of downtown Steamboat Springs. The top of Vogue will level out just before you have another steep section to the top of Jess’ Cut-Off.

Looking down Jess’s Cut-Off

After you climb Jess’, it will level out again, and you have the biggest decision of your day: Go right to the top of the Christie lift or go left and climb another 1,100 feet to the top of the gondola. If you go left, prepare yourself for the longest, steepest section of your skin along with the best views. With work comes reward, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded with beautiful views of Sleeping Giant, the Flat Tops, Hahn’s Peak and the sunrise. I’ll admit, the climb up the Daze is not easy, but keep going one ski in front of the other. You’ll likely make a few friends as you climb up with other skinners or receive a few hoots and hollers from early morning gondola passengers.

Right-hand turn up to the Christie Lift

As you crest the top of Heavenly Daze, take a few minutes to soak it all up. Most of town is still sleeping. Your friends and family are likely just rolling out of bed or working on making a warm breakfast. Take a second look at the view, click back into those skis and enjoy the fresh lines as you ski down the Daze across Jess’ Cut-Off and over to See Me or Vogue. As you make it down Headwall, there might be a few people in line for the gondola. Slide in next to them or grab a coffee and breakfast burrito at Gondola Joe’s.

Almost to the top of Heavenly Daze

It’s always fun going down or up.

Garett Mariano, Alpine skier

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