Earning Those Turns
After an extended weekend of turkey, leftovers, more leftovers, and pie (there’s always room for pie), I was in need of some exercise this morning. I elected to pull out my Alpine-touring gear and skin up the mountain.
If you’re not hip to skinning, let me explain. “Skins” are made from a material similar to low profile carpeting that adheres to the bottom of your skis. Designed mainly for backcountry exploration, skins make it possible to walk up the hill by way of creating a tacky surface under foot that clings to the snow as you climb. I’ve adopted the sport of skinning in the last few years as a way to stay in shape and ski some places I wouldn’t otherwise get to.
This morning, it was all about the workout. I started up the hill at around 7:30 a.m. along with a few others who had the same idea. About 100 yards into my hike, I was quickly reminded that there are essentially four pitches to conquer before arriving at the top of the gondola. Those include the bottom slope of Stampede, followed by the steep but short pitch of Vogue. From there, you tackle Sitz before heading up the long journey that is Heavenly Daze.
No matter how many times I have skinned this mountain, I can’t help but need a short breather about halfway up the Daze. There are several rollers that make the climb more difficult to summit then you’d think. For a moderately rated ski trail, it’s deceivingly steep when you’re headed in the “wrong” direction. But that makes getting to the top a much more special sense of accomplishment.
For those who climb with their gear, skiing or riding down is a pure delight. I typically get to the top of Heavenly Daze before the gondola begins to load ticket holders for the day. Part of the pleasure of skinning comes from knowing you’ve earned first tracks on the hill. Many people take on the hill wearing simply stiff boots and yaktrax or snow shoes. Those people typically download the gondola for well-deserved complimentary ride.
If you’re looking for a great way to get your heart pumping first thing in the morning, I suggest you explore the idea of skinning or hiking the hill. Just stop by the Welcome Center to sign a copy of Steamboat’s Uphill Access Policy and get a reflective armband.
Muster up your sense of adventure and give it a try.
Dave Wittlinger, Alpine skier