Three-day symposium in Aspen will explore building off uphilling phenomena

Staff report
Andrew Aldercotte, Amber Aldercotte, center, and Emily Sayrs skin up Tiehack on Tuesday evening. Aspen will host a three-day symposium starting Sunday on uphilling-related issues.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Representatives of outdoor recreation companies and local governments will convene in Aspen for three days starting Sunday to discuss the “uphilling” phenomena and its potential to grow more.

The symposium called the Aspen Ascent is part of Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron’s vision of how to tap the passion for uphilling as a way to boost and diversify the economy. There has been a surge in popularity over the past decade or so in people using climbing skins on skis or using snowshoes and other specialized gear to ascend ski slopes or backcountry trails. Skiers and snowboarders “earn their turns” by walking up rather than taking a chairlift.

Skadron, an avid uphiller himself, made it a goal a couple of years ago to develop the concept further for Aspen.

“Since the very beginning of setting this uphill economy goal for the city of Aspen, I have been focused on how mountain towns such as ours can diversify and grow its economy while also paying homage to the ski roots that built such Colorado destinations,” Skadron said in a statement.

The goal of Aspen Ascent is to build public-private relationships and identify tangible next steps to build the economy. Aspen Ascent will feature three days of panel discussions exploring data, trends and research related to uphilling and the outdoor industry. Representatives from The North Face, La Sportiva, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the U.S. Forest Service, Aspen Skiing Co. and Aspen Chamber Resort Association will attend.

Uphill ski and snowboard travel is the latest way outdoor recreation is engaging participants of all ages, according to Nathan Fry, deputy director of the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation.

“Uphill ski activities have extended beyond the trailhead to become an emerging attraction at lift-serviced resorts,” Fry said. “Uphill participants are motivated by the health benefits of earning their turns and the history of the sport. According to Longwoods International, Colorado is by far the top destination for skiing and attracts more than 20 percent of skiing trips in the U.S.”

A discussion on Uphill Market Research will reveal the profile of who spends time and money pursuing uphill fitness, how much money they spend and where they seek their recreational opportunities.

The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade will offer statistics and information on future initiatives in the outdoor industry including insights on seasonality, workforce development, infrastructure supports, public-private partnerships and regional integration.

Other panels will feature women and the outdoor industry, market research take-aways, how community development can leverage the outdoor recreation industry and community partnerships.

The event won’t be confined to the great indoors. The Aspen Ascent at Buttermilk will be held Sunday at the base of main Buttermilk. Vendors selling and demoing uphilling gear will be set up at the base from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free beginner uphill clinics will be offered on the half hour between 8 and 10 a.m. Expert clinics will be held at 8, 9 and 10 a.m.

The event is free. “All athletes, abilities and non-motorized equipment are welcome to participate,” said a statement from Aspen Skiing Co. “Options for uphilling include ski touring, trail running, snowshoeing, split boarding and hiking.”

Designated uphill routes and aid stations will be established at the ski area. The Cliffhouse restaurant at the mountaintop will offer complimentary hot chocolate and lemonade. Food will be available for purchase.

The symposium kicks off at 4 p.m. Sunday with the “Uphill Economy Dinner and Panel Discussion” at the St. Regis Aspen Resort. A panel will discuss growth of the outdoor recreation industry, state and local economic development and positioning businesses and communities to benefit. Presentations and panel discussions will be held throughout Monday and Tuesday also at the St. Regis.

Tickets range from $50 for local government and ACRA members, $75 for participants who don’t require lodging and $500 with lodging. Registration is available at

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