The great gray area: Uphilling in the Midwest

In the entire Midwest, I can find but two ski areas that have a policy for uphill skier access. The rest have no stated policy.

At Lutsen Mountains, uphill travel is prohibited. You must ride the lifts to ski down. Over in Michigan at Boyne Mountain, uphill travel is permitted, so you can hike for your turns. ( helped me spot Boyne’s policy.)

Everywhere else has no stated policy, meaning it’s not expressly prohibited, but not necessarily allowed either.

A little uphill after an April blizzard in the Midwest. (MSJ)

There are a few reasons and ways to uphill in the Midwest:

  1. On a powder day, get up bright and early and head up for some first tracks before the lifts spin.
  2. In the off-season, you can still get some turns when it snows. MSJ used this method last year during the April blizzard, in which a foot of snow fell weeks after the area closed.
  3. Another option could be to hike the hill during the ski day. While I find it hard to hike when the lifts are spinning, I could see someone hoping to get a little exercise in the middle of their ski day, too.
  4. Skiing the backcountry could be another motivation, although back or side country skiing in the Midwest is few and far between.

When we talk about uphilling in the Midwest context, we’re mostly talking about hiking or boot-packing the hill. With so little vertical in many places, there is no real need for a touring ski setup (save for places like Mt. Bohemia).

Still, even if you have an uphill plan, there is no telling how the resort will react to seeing you do it, because no policies are in place. Knowing many of these areas, no policy is probably the best policy for skiers. If they did have a policy, it would probably be a hard “no.”

So our advice would be to go for it. Right now, these areas aren’t saying no. Realistically, this chance would only happen a few times a year at most, so it’s not like it’s a problem the areas must deal with urgently.

It is a completely victimless endeavor. You want your turns, so you’re going to hike to get them. You’re still going to go buy a pass afterward or you’re a season pass holder already, so you’re not stealing.

Give it a go and let us know how it went. Be safe and be courteous, but go get that alpine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s