The Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race.
An Uphill Skiing Community Unique to Aspen
Early mornings and steady climbs can't discourage this group of avid uphill skiers.
“Not all of us can ski all day, so this is the most efficient way to earn a hard and enjoyable outdoor workout early, then get one quality run down before heading to work,” says Koster. “Aspen Snowmass has done such a great job keeping this activity accessible—we have so many routes, so many mountains… we’re really lucky here.”
Aspen Snowmass has long welcomed uphilling, and with perhaps the ski industry’s most accommodating policies: All four ski areas are open to uphilling with multiple, well-marked routes; three of them allowing access during operating hours; and even pups are welcome—as long as you show up after last chair. Plus, with the efforts to maintain groomed uphill access throughout the pandemic—even when the lifts stopped running—people are starting to recognize and appreciate the resort as much for its uphill allure as its downhill fame. With uphill lessons and clinics, user-friendly lightweight gear on offer, and social events like Friday uphill breakfasts, full moon dinners and races like Summit for Life and Power of Four, Aspen Snowmass and the local community both embrace and nurture an unparalleled uphill culture that’s easy to jump into.
Just the Right Dose of the Outdoors
Just the Right Dose of the Outdoors
“Not all of us can ski all day, so this is the most efficient way to earn a hard and enjoyable outdoor workout early, then get one quality run down before heading to work."
–Ryan Koster, Uphill Skier
Koster skins six days a week, and since he ramped up his skinning volume two years ago, he’s shaved about 20 percent off his personal record up Aspen Mountain. But not everyone is in a hurry. Yes, some of the fastest uphillers in the country train here—some even with their eyes set on the 2026 Winter Olympics, when ski mountaineering racing (the formal name for a ski genre that combines ascending and descending mountains) joins the Olympic roster. But most are seeking a casual winter workout that combines cardio, fresh air and a fun finish. Many are in it for the social aspect, meeting friends in a healthy, outdoor setting and celebrating the skin with pancakes at Bonnie’s or a full-moon dinner at the Cliffhouse. Others seek the meditative benefits of skiing uphill and enjoying the solitude—that peaceful rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other—and the connection to nature in a controlled setting.
Whether it’s at uphill clinics, Friday uphill socials or competitive events like the Power of Four, this sport fosters strong community bonds. When the Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race started more than a decade ago, only 70 competitors signed up to skin, hike, and ski 24 miles (with more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain) across Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain. Now, hundreds of racers, from recreational to elite, test their mental and physical strength each March. Aspen Snowmass also hosts Summit for Life, a nighttime race up Aspen Mountain held each December to benefit the Chris Klug Foundation.
“As a company we truly believe in inspiring adventure, journeys, and physical and personal growth,” says Katie Ertl, Senior Vice President of Mountain Operations for Aspen Skiing Company. “It ties into the Aspen idea of mind, body, spirit—and really hits the mark for us as company and a community. We want to encourage the idea of walking uphill for exercise and inspire people to get together in a healthy way. Après-ski is a big part of the ski world, and uphilling offers is a healthy alternative people can do before or after work to socialize or just decompress and unwind.”
Like most of Aspen Snowmass’ management team, Ertl is an avid uphiller. She skins twice a week, mostly on Buttermilk, so she can get exercise with her dog and get to work by 8am.
“I love the movement of the ski across the snow—that it sticks so you can move yourself up the hill,” she says. “It’s so empowering to know you can walk straight up a slope on skins. Whether it’s to the top or halfway up the mountain, there’s always a sense of accomplishment.”
Uphilling means something different to everyone. For some, it’s a winter-long gym membership to maintain cardio fitness during ski season. For others, it’s a social outlet and a way to connect with friends in a healthy setting. Visitors enjoy adding another mountain activity to their ski trip. Many appreciate the low-impact motion of gliding uphill under their own power—or the peaceful meditation of a solo skin under a bright moon. Whatever you’re looking to get out of it, there’s no better place touphill than Aspen Snowmass—and no better time than now.
Our Uphilling Guide
Ready to give uphilling a shot? Get all of the details with our Uphilling Guide, including details on our uphilling clinics.