As you may have seen on social media or the snow report yesterday, we made the decision to temporarily suspend uphill travel outside of operating hours due to a number of issues we have had this season. What should be noted immediately is that this is not something we want to do by any means. We have worked hard over the past years, particularly over these last few months, to continue to invest time and resources in creating a great uphill experience at Sugarbush. It brings us joy to hear how well our new Uphill Travel Policy has been received this season, and we are hopeful this is something we can continue to offer moving forward. But in order to do this we need to work together as a community to hold each accountable, educate each other, and respect the policy that has been put in place.
What Types of Issues Are We Having?
So why did we feel the need to suspend uphill travel? While we have certainly had a number of issues over the years in the past, this year behavior seems to be worse than usual. While we recognize that the vast majority of you are abiding by our policies, we continue to see increased infractions when it comes to uphill.
The biggest issue has to do with our downhill routes, however uphill routes have also been a problem. We have made very specific decisions on what uphill and downhill routes you must ascend and descend when on the mountain. The reason we choose those routes has everything to do with mountain operations and safety. We don’t want uphill travelers interacting with machinery, like groomers, winch cables, or snowmaking guns and hoses, and knowing where uphill travelers are allows us to plan around them.
In just the past week, a few examples of issues we have had include people ascending Straight Shot (not an uphill route), descending on trails including Riemergasse and Inverness (not downhill routes), and descending down Cliffs during winch cat operations. That last issue in particular is extremely concerning as two skiers hit the winch cat cable, ejected from their skis, and then skied off before our cat operator could turn around to get up to them. These skiers not only ignored our uphill policy, which clearly states you can’t ski Cliffs when winching is in progress, they skied right past the flashing signage we put at the top of the trail. Everyone involved is extremely fortunate that a more serious incident didn’t occur.
There have been other issues as well including not using headlamps when required, not skinning in single file lines, bringing dogs, and bringing children in backpacks. The point is, we all need to be educating ourselves on the policy prior to ascending.
What Sugarbush is Doing
We’ve been working hard to make our new uphill policy a smooth experience, and we continue to look for ways to help educate guests. If you’re having trouble looking for our Uphill Travel Policy, you can find it in the footer of the website no matter what webpage you are on.
Additionally, you can find our policy linked directly in our snow report narrative, as well as a quick link to get your free Uphill Travel Pass. And that pass is good for the whole season. You only need to acquire it once a year. For the next few days, we’ll have an alert up on our website directing you to this blog and the Uphill Travel Policy as well.
Finding the policy is step one. We have provided maps online for you to see which routes are available (located on the Uphill Travel webpage). There is also signage located at the beginning of the uphill routes at both mountains. New to our snow report this year, aside from mentioning any relevant uphill travel news in the narrative, we have also built out three “trails” for our uphill travel routes: Lincoln Peak Evening Uphill Route, Lincoln Peak Morning Uphill Route, and Mt. Ellen Uphill Route.
Here we can easily mark whether the route is open or closed. In the example above, the Lincoln Peak routes are currently closed and because I’m writing this in the middle of the day, the Mt. Ellen route is open. When any route is open, it will be marked as “Designated Route” rather than open. This language is designed to hopefully push guests to see what the actual designated routes are, rather than assuming the whole mountain is just open for uphill.
Additionally, as stated before, we work to mark winching operations on mountain with flashing trail signage (like on Cliffs), but we still need skiers and riders to actually abide by that mountain signage. We also work with our mountain operations teams on awareness and education about uphill travel, but at the end of the day, their main priority is focusing on their job, which is why it is so important to stay away away from operations and not burden staff like groomers who need to be focusing on putting out a good product for our guests.
Educating Yourself and Others
To ensure that our Uphill Travel Policy can continue to exist moving forward, we all need to focus on educating both ourselves, and each other. We’re all in this together. Review our policy, learn what routes are open and when, and understand what the rules are.
Regarding routes, the simple version is that Lincoln Peak offers uphill travel at designated times and on designated routes outside of operating hours. These routes and times are directly correlated with our grooming operations. There’s a morning route and an evening route. At Mt. Ellen we have one designated uphill route that is available both during operating hours and outside of operating hours (aside from 4:00 – 5:00 PM. There are specific downhill route options there too, with some caveats based on if we are grooming Cliffs or not. That’s why it’s so important to check the snow report before you ascend no matter what time or which mountain.
As far as rules are concerned. Uphill travelers must adhere to the following:
Mountain operations take place AT ALL TIMES. This includes grooming, snowmaking, transportation of materials and personnel, and other activities. STAY AWAY from all resort operations and machinery. Operators’ vision in machinery can be obstructed by blowing snow, even from the machine. Winch Cat grooming operations may be done on all trails at any time. Winch Cat grooming operations can happen sometimes 1000-3000 feet away from the anchor point access making it close to impossible to detect. Please be aware that these rules are put in place to protect both the guest and the operator.
Headlights are required from ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour after sunrise.
Hikers/Skinners must hold a valid “Uphill Travel Pass” available at no cost through the Sugarbush E-store.
Hike and skin in a single-file line, on the side of the trail.
Hike and skin on designated uphill routes going up.
Dogs are not allowed.
In the event of an emergency call 911.
Be aware uphill travelers who sustain injuries during non-operating hours may be subject to extended rescue times. Charges may be incurred for individuals in need of rescue after operating hours.
No uphill or downhill travel with children in backpacks is permitted.
Now that you know some of the background and are prepared to help us work to educate together, we are happy to announce that we will be reinstating uphill travel beginning Saturday, January 22nd. As of tomorrow morning all uphill travel routes will be back open and accessible during their proper times. Walt’s After Dark will also still be happening tomorrow evening and skinning is option (though you can also ride the lift up before it closes).
We want everyone to be safe. We want everyone to have fun. And we certainly want to keep this uphill travel policy moving forward. We hope this can provide a bit of a wake-up call to everyone because if we continue to see a number of guests abusing our policy, we will have to revisit our policy and potentially shut it down for a longer period of time. We appreciate uphill travel just as much as you do, but we will not risk the safety of skiers or those on our mountain operations team if things don’t improve.
So please, help us spread the word! Let’s hold each other accountable. Let’s educate each other on proper routes, times, and etiquette. Let’s make sure we all have uphill travel passes. And let’s all keep enjoying this great form of fun and exercise long into the future together.