The Mountain Times

°F Mon, April 21, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Killington and Pico open mountains to uphill travelers

KILLINGTON - Winter uphill travel by means of skinning and snowshoeing is becoming increasingly popular across the county and world. Some ski resorts have welcomed the sport; other have fought it - some to the point of jailing perpetrators (on Feb. 5, 2011, backcountry skier Roland Fleck was arrested at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and was tobogganed off in handcuffs after he refused to stop skiing uphill. Fleck, age 78, a longtime Jackson doctor, fitness buff and one of the original investors in Teton Village, was arrested on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass, interference with an officer, unsafe skiing and theft of services. Fleck spent about seven hours in the Teton County Jail.)
Killington Ski Resort and Pico Mountain now fall into the former group supporting uphill travel. In fact, just before the New Year, they published their formal policy welcoming winter uphill travel enthusiasts with signage, an official pass and designated routes open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Locals, many of whom have been skinning up the mountains for years, have largely welcomed the resorts' policy and see it as a very progressive step forward. Last year a group of locals formed an organization called USTO (Uphill Snow Travelers Organization) to consolidate their hopes and wishes for an officially uphill travel policy and then opened the conversation with Killington Resort and Pico Mountain.
"This is a big deal folks," said Mike Miller, a founder of USTO in an email to the local travel group. "If we can respect the mountains' policy they will open more terrain for us." The uphill routes are currently Ramshead at Killington and Summit Glades at Pico.
The goals of USTO as an organization is to promote safe uphill travel, create a central location for members to share concerns and/or opinions, to work with resorts or land owners who have policies in place and to help others create policies.
During the winter of 2013 a group of USTO members worked closely with Killington on a pilot program for the winter, to see if it could be integrated into their winter operations. The 24-week long experiment produced both good and bad results "but it was exactly what was needed to move forward," Miller reported. "It opened our eyes as to why certain parts of the mountain are unsafe or a nuisance to Mountain Operations."
Land use
The Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation and the National Forest Service acknowledge that ski resort operators have the ability to decide and define how ski trails and facilities can be operated, accessed and utilized. This provides Killington and Pico authority over land use at both locations. Killington Ski Resort leases land at Killington from the State of Vermont and land at Pico is privately owned.
Uphill travel routes will be made available at both Killington and Pico during the winter season as conditions permit.
"We will open uphill travel routes in line with our ability to effectively manage and operate all functions within the entire resort, including but not limited to snowmaking, trail grooming, equipment maintenance, snow removal, etc.," Killington Resort explains in their Uphill Travel Policy online.
Designated routes
Uphill travel routes can be accessed from designated resort parking areas: the Ramshead lot at Killington and near the Little Pico Triple at Pico (far left as you enter the lot.) Both have an Uphill Travel sign plaza, where folks can check out current route status and updates, also available on the resorts' conditions reports.
Easy Street at Ramshead:
From the Ramshead Base Lodge, proceed up the looker's right side of Easy Street trail.
Follow Easy Street to its intersection with Header trail. These two trails run together for approx. 100 yards.
Turn right up Easy Street and follow it to the base of Swirl trail.
Continue up Swirl to the top of the Ramshead Express Quad chairlift.
If you decide to leave the ski resort premises and go beyond the ski area boundary, an out-of-bounds uphill travel route continues up Old Swirl trail to the summit of Ramshead Mountain. (This section of the route is outside the ski area boundary and is not maintained or checked by ski resort personnel at any time. Proceed at your own risk.)
Summit Glades:
From the base of the Little Pico Triple chairlift, proceed up the looker's left side of Lower Pike trail.
Bear left up C-Slope trail and continue up C-Slope until it intersects with Bushwacker trail.
Turn left up Bushwacker trail for approximately 30 yards and then turn right up Summit Glade trail.
Continue up Summit Glade to 49er trail.
Follow 49er trail to the summit of Pico Mountain.
The Uphill Travel Pass
There is no charge for an Uphill Travel Pass for anyone who has already purchased a 2013-14 Killington or Pico season pass. Uphill Travel passes are available at the Killington and Pico Season Pass offices during operating hours. For those without a season pass, a 2013-14 Uphill Travel Pass can be purchased for $20. The 2013-14 Uphill Travel Pass may be used at both Killington and Pico Mountain at Killington. The Pass does not provide lift access either up or down the mountain.
In addition to the 2013-14 Uphill Travel Pass with photo ID all uphill travelers are required to sign a 2013-14 Winter Uphill Travel Express Assumption of Risk form before accessing open and designated uphill travel routes at Killington and Pico. For children ages 17 and under signature of an Express Assumption of Risk form by parent or legal guardian is required.
Passes must be carried by all uphill travelers at all times when accessing uphill travel routes on resort property, both during operating and non-operating hours. Please be prepared to present your pass to resort personnel upon request.
Resort rules
In order to help provide an enjoyable and orderly experience for both uphill and downhill guests on a 24/7 basis, all uphill travelers are required to follow resort rules, including the best practices, the resorts' policy states. Rules specific to uphill travel include but are not limited to:
Wearing reflective clothing and a bright headlamp is mandatory if you will be on the mountain in low light or when it's dark. It's your responsibility to make yourself visible to operations personnel.
You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above. Do not stop in high traffic areas.
Travel on the edge of the trail and don't stand more than two people side-by-side across the trail.
Pets are not permitted on trails and slopes.
(For a complete list of rules and safety tips visit www.Killington.com.)