First ever Aspen Uphill Skiing Festival (officially “Aspen Ascent Weekend”) This past Saturday-Sunday. Amazing. We figured about 300 people showed up on day one to enjoy perfect weather, lunch at the summit restaurant, free demo gear and an overall social occasion. The slopes were groomed, the lifts were closed. Backcountry conditions were mixed, you could find some powder up high but a lot of breakable crust and transitional snow was to be had as well, so ski touring at a resort without ski lifts was perfect for us. Not only that, but Cripple Creek Backcountry did a podcast from the summit restaurant, featuring a few of us old timers reminiscing about the history of local uphilling.
The celebrity podcast (People magazine next!) included alpinist and former publisher of Climbing Magazine, Michael Kennedy, prodding me to remember my days of ski touring on fragile nordic racing equipment. Bob Wade, owner of famed local retailer Ute Mountaineer (40 year anniversary party April 14) spoke on the origins of our our local skimo race scene, as he and his shop founded the original organized uphill races on the ski hill, back in the 1970s.
For myself, the interesting part of the podcast was having Skico management there in the form of Rich Burkley, V.P. Mountain Operations. Rich is fully involved in how our Aspen ski mountains deal with thousands of uphillers. Short story is they’re committed to making it work, but pondering things such as segregating some of the uphill traffic off the actual ski runs (instead using designated uphill trails through the woods), as well as the eternal question of how to monetize their uphill guests.
I pointed out that 4 of us sitting there doing the podcast had already “monetized” uphill skiing (3 ski shop owners and myself the publisher). Not that the Skico is going into publishing or big time retailing; point being that there are ways. For example, as they do in Europe, providing attractive on-mountain dining options for the uphill crowd.
Rich mentioned they probably will never charge money specifically for uphilling, as doing so would defy local culture and be an “enforcement” challenge. I’d agree with that — for now. But if the uphiller numbers continue what’s something like a 7 year doubling rate, and use the Skico groom that costs significant money per cubic meter to produce through snowmaking and grooming, then something has to eventually give.
(Incidentally, we spoke with a guide and ski instructor who said he’d done 20 guide days that winter, simply showing folks an uphill experience on the resort. There you go, another way to monetize.)
In more news, CAST touring just launched the latest incarnation of their system. This is the take-no-prisoners way of ski touring with full alpine gear. Not really our cup of coffee here at WildSnow, but entirely viable if you’ve simply found that aggressive skiing on touring equipment is fraught with breakage, or downright dangerous due to the difficulty of adjusting touring bindings to provide an adequate balance of retention and release. More here.
Lastly, for our part of the Uphill Festival, we made a thermos of mulled wine. While I’m not a big fan of most Glühwein (I’ve sampled plenty in Europe), last winter I had a version in Austria at Schönwetter Bistro Café . Now, this isn’t just any bistro, but rather an establishment operated by members of the Barthel family, including inventor of the tech binding, Fritz Barthel. Turns out that not only is the Barthel family home to engineering smarts, but they have a tradition of culinary excellence. Thus, their special recipe for mulled wine that I like to call the “Low-Tech” in honor of Fritz and his business.
The Schönwetter Low-Tech version is a light mulled wine made with Austrian muscat grape wine. Sweetened with caramelized sugar, seasoned, and cut with water. We couldn’t find the exact right muskat, so to maintain flavor we used less water than the recipe below. We added water by taste, after mixing in the sugar and a bit more spice than indicated (again to taste). Result was excellent. If you like this sort of thing, give it a shot.
160 g sugar caramelized (tricky, google is your friend)
1 litre filtered water
1 litre Muskateller
1 cinammon stick
Heat all together, do not boil, recommended maximum temperature 160 degrees fahrenheit.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.