January 25, 2024 9:16 pm

Duane L. Coker

As an enthusiastic splitboarder, I’ve had the opportunity to experience uphill skiing and splitboarding at both Crested Butte Ski Resort and Monarch Ski Resort. Both resorts are “uphill friendly” though they differ significantly in how they allow the sport.

Here’s what you need to know about these two exciting destinations.

Crested Butte Ski Resort – The Adventurer’s Playground

Uphill Skiing Hours:

Crested Butte offers uphill skiing and splitboarding enthusiasts the chance to enjoy the slopes before and after regular operating hours. This is a BIG difference from previous seasons, when uphill skiing and splitboarding was allowed all day.  I’ve heard a number of reasons for the change, but have been unable to confirm any of them.

Late winter and spring “after hours” alpine touring at Crested Butte makes for some amazing sunset views!!!

At the time of writing this, the designated times typically start from after 4:30 p.m. and continue until 8:45 a.m. This ensures a peaceful ascent and descent without the hustle and bustle of regular ski traffic.

Later in the season, skiing after the lifts close provides amazing sunsets and has become one of my favorite things to do.  Snowboarding down after sunset, with a headlamp, is pretty exciting as well!

Before going, you should check out Crested Butte’s Uphill Access Page for the latest details and course maps.

Also, very importantly, you should always call the Crested Butte Uphill Access Phone line (970-349-2345) to make sure uphill skiing is permitted.  At times, especially after heavy snow, uphill access is temporarily closed so that the resort can groom and take action to mitigate avalanche risks.

Costs and Passes:

One of the great things about Crested Butte is that uphill skiing is generally allowed with no pass required, making it accessible for everyone.  Most resorts these days require a lift ticket, season pass, or uphill ski pass, but, as of the current 2023-2024 season, no pass is required at Crested Butte.

Routes and Safety:

Crested Butte designates specific routes for uphill skiing to ensure safety for all. It’s important to stick to these paths and be aware of any changes due to weather or events. The current route runs from the base area, up Lower Keystone, Upper Park, Yellow Brick Road, and up Paradise Bowl to the top of Paradise Lift.  Uphill skiing is not allowed above Paradise Lift.

Monarch Ski Resort – The Hidden Gem

Uphill Skiing Hours:

Monarch Ski Resort offers a significantly different uphill experience.

Uphill access is basically allowed 24/7, including before or after the resort season.  The only closure is during the week before opening day as the resort puts the final touches in to get the slopes ready for the masses.

Being able to ski all day means that you don’t have to start so early or late, can wait for optimal weather windows, and allows time to take breaks in between laps. It also means you’ll be ascending alongside the downhill skiers and snowboarders, adding traffic and requiring more careful attention, but, at the same time, offering a more vibrant and communal atmosphere.

Costs and Passes:

Monarch requires uphill skiers to have a valid lift ticket or season pass. However, they also offer an affordable uphill pass for those who prefer to stick solely to skinning up the mountain. This makes Monarch a cost-effective choice for the dedicated uphill enthusiast, especially considering the nearly unlimited hours throughout the season!

Routes and Etiquette:

While Monarch allows uphill access during operating hours, they have specific routes marked for uphill traffic to ensure everyone’s safety. It’s crucial to follow these routes and be mindful of downhill skiers. Always stay visible, wear bright colors, and follow proper mountain etiquette to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.

The View, the view, the view:

A tiny peek at the view from Monarch.

One of the best reasons to alpine tour at Monarch is the view at the top!  It’s absolutely stunning on a clear day with multiple 14ers visible in nearly every direction.  From the top, you can see all the way from Uncompahgre (14, 321′), in the San Juans, to Pike’s Peak (14, 115′), located in the Front Range.  And, of course, neighboring the resort are two more 14ers – Tabeguache Peak and Mount Shavano.  Truly Epic!!!

Why Choose Uphill Skiing?

Uphill skiing and splitboarding, especially at destinations like Crested Butte and Monarch, offers a unique way to experience the mountains. It’s not just about the physical challenge; it’s about connecting with nature, enjoying the tranquility of the ascent, and the exhilarating descent. It’s a great way to get in, or stay in, backcountry shape when avalanche conditions, or thin snow, doesn’t allow for many backcountry choices. Both resorts offer a safe and regulated environment to enjoy this growing sport.

Final ThoughtsUphill skiing and splitboarding provides opportunities for sunset views and night skiing that aren't normally available to lift riders.

Whether you’re a seasoned uphill skier/splitboarder or a newcomer to the sport, both Crested Butte and Monarch Ski Resort provide excellent opportunities to explore the mountains in a new and exciting way. Remember to always check the latest resort guidelines and weather conditions before heading out and enjoy the beauty and challenge of uphill skiing!

If you’re new to uphill skiing or splitboarding, or want to find out more about the Gunnison, Colorado area, feel free to post questions here in comments!

About the Author

Avid backcountry splitboarder, camper, overlander, traveler, foodie, trained sommelier, and lover of tech and gadgets!

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