The hottest—and hardest—workout in ski towns actually takes place before the slopes even open. Uphill skiing (also called ski touring and skinning) is basically ditching the chair lift in favor of walking uphill in special skis and earning that run back down.
In addition to adding a little variety to your winter sport repertoire, uphill skiing is also killer on your glutes, core, and even your arms as you lean on your poles to climb. But, most of all, it’s one of the best ways to train your cardiovascular system, says Miles Gentry, head strength and conditioning coach at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.
“Your first time going uphill, no matter how fit you are, your heart will feel like it’s about to blow out of your chest and your lungs will feel like they’re about to explode,” he says. (In the best way possible, of course).
Because your whole body is involved in the hike, you’re forced to pump fresh oxygenated blood to every muscle while simultaneously trying to climb up a mountain with skis (read: weights) on your feet and less oxygen in the air the higher you go, Gentry explains.
The sport isn’t new to the world. Uphill skiing has long been part of European ski culture and for some time has been a local fitness staple before or after work in U.S. mountain towns, says Dan Sherman, CMO of Ski.com, a ski and snowboard vacation booking company that tracks trends in snow sports. “But as gear is becoming more versatile and accessible, we’re seeing more and more vacation-goers take an interest in it,” he adds.
Since uphill skiing has become so popular, over 70 resorts in North America have now set up specific policies around it, Sherman says. Some limit the sport to before and after lift hours, others allow it during the day only on specific routes (while some actually ban uphill completely during the resort’s open season).
Here, a handful of places that combine breath-taking scenery and uphill-friendly policies.