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Uphill Skiing for Non-Skiers

Ski touring uphill at resorts is catching on with an unforeseen crowd—ultra-runners and endurance athletes with zero skiing experience. Here’s how our snowboarding and trail running contributor Lisa Jhung’s first day (well, night actually) went down.



Total darkness is approaching, and I couldn’t be happier ski touring up Copper Mountain by myself after a day of snowboarding green runs with my eight-year-old, wrestling my five-year-old on skis, and hanging with my in-laws (whom I love, deeply). Here I am, skinning solo, loving the sound of crunching snow under my skis, the first star of the night shining above me.

I’m wearing my eight-year-old’s headlamp I found in his duffle when we unpacked because Copper’s uphill policy made me wait until 5 p.m. since I didn’t get out before the lifts started running this morning. I’m climbing a green run, but breathing heartily at 10,000 feet. Thirty-eight minutes later, I get to my turnaround point under completely dark skies. In complete silence—no people, no wind—I strip my skins for the second time ever as the set-up is entirely new for me, figure out how to turn my tech bindings into downhill mode, tighten my boots and click into my skis. The headlamp is better suited to reading comic books under a blanket and only illuminates the snow a few feet in front of me. A bigger problem: I don’t really know how to ski.

I’m a snowboarder and a Nordic skate skier. That is to say that I’m an endurance sports junkie and a knuckle-dragger. I’d been on my new alpine touring rig setup once, a few days prior, touring on a rolling trail with a friend and our dogs. I got myself this new setup for a few reasons: get some killer exercise uphilling at a resort now and then; ski tour for fitness and fun with friends and my dog; eventually ski into a hut once in a while. But now I need to get down this slope without knowing how to make a turn.

My pride concealed by a cloak of darkness, I snowplow. Then I snowplow some more avoiding the trees I memorized earlier in the day. I take a couple breaks because snowplowing is exhausting. But I make it down, unharmed, and exhilarated.

I vow to do a few more uphill/downhill laps throughout our stay, but in the mornings when I can see better. And I look forward to a hut trip in January with friends…I hope they can teach me how to ski.

Mountain contributor Lisa Jhung has since skinned and skied down Copper twice more in the daylight, and once on a trail. She’s even made some not-so-terrible turns, though that hasn’t been fact checked.

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