Locals shift to skinning in wake of resort’s closure


Photo by Kaelyn Kroeger

An uphiller skins up Ruthie’s side of Aspen Mountain accompanied by their dog.

On Saturday, March 14th, Aspen Skiing Company shut down all mountains in response to Colorado governor Jared Polis’s executive order to issue all Colorado ski resorts to close. As a result, many members of the Aspen community got their ski touring sets or borrowed from neighbors, friends, and family to continue to ski.

Aspen, along with most mountain towns in Colorado, has cultivated a culture that surrounds and advocates for skiing, snowboarding, and all winter sports in between. Therefore, the shut-down was met with widespread upset among locals.

AHS junior Christian Kelly is one of the many members of the Aspen community that has started skinning up the local mountains to ski and has frequently been skinning up Aspen Mountain with his brother and his friends.

“I didn’t want the season to be over so soon especially because there is still so much good snow on all of the mountains,” Kelly said.

Many locals own “skinning” gear, which is equipment that enables a skier to attach special grippy straps to the bottoms of skis that can additionally detach the heel from, essentially allowing them to move uphill. These have been a hit in recent weeks following the closure of all lifts.

“Initially, I was super mad but not at our ski company, since they did everything they could to keep the mountains open. I was mad at the governor who shut everything down, but I came to realize that it was probably best for the state and our town to keep the mountains closed,” Kelly said.

There is a wide variety of routes to undertake within all four mountains. Fluctuating terrain calls for many different skill level and there is also the ability to go for as long as desired.

Junior Annika Nichols also thoroughly enjoys getting to go skiing despite the circumstances and usually skins up Aspen Mountain and Highlands with her parents or 6 feet away from her friends.

“I think it’s an excellent way to get outside and exercise, but it’s really physically demanding, at least in my opinion. However, it’s completely worth the ski down even if it’s just a run,” Nichols said.

While the simple act of sitting on a chairlift and being effortlessly carried to the top of a hill is physically much easier, the normalization of skinning to ski has created a whole new atmosphere.

For those with the proper resources, skinning motivated many people to get out of their house during quarantine, get some great exercise (maybe get in the best shape of their lives), and catch some vitamin D from the sun to get that perfect tan.

“Even if it means having to earn the turns, it’s worth it,” Nichols said. “I have so much respect for people who go skinning for fun during the season now.”