John Carlin’s Outdoors | Skiing... up a mountain?

Uphilling may be the newest thing in skiing. Or it may be the oldest.

You have to believe that long before there were chair lifts, people had to get to the top of the mountain on foot in order to ski down.

But now, it’s gone full circle. A growing number of people are bypassing the lift, and skiing up the mountain, before they shoosh back down.

Mikey Valach is the outdoor adventure manager at Snowshoe Mountain Resort. A cyclist in warmer months, he says uphilling keeps him in shape more than simply skiing or snowboarding.

He says he pretty much fits the profile of an uphill skier.

“Your active cyclist, runner, that’s who it appeals to for sure,” Valach said.

He demonstrated the lengths uphillers go to so the skis don’t slip down while pointed up the mountain.

Special skins made of synthetic material are added to the base of the ski for the uphill trek. Unique bindings allow the skier’s foot to lift at the heel, making the motion more natural.

Once at the top, they are easily converted to conventional bindings.

Not to be left out, snowboarders have split boards – a conventional snowboard that breaks in half to simulate skis.

The bindings snap into a new position, so split boarders can ascend just like skiers. At the top the board is fitted back together, giving the snowboarder a conventional ride back down.

Though the equipment is somewhat complicated, the hardest part is still to come.

Walking up the side of a mountain — on skis.

We set off up the slope, and I was no match for the mountain regulars who left me in their dust.

They graciously waited for me a couple of times.

“Are you guys enjoying this?” I asked out of breath at a rest stop. The group responded with hearty “yesses” and laughter.

Upward we trekked. I used the advice to save some energy by sliding the skis instead of lifting them.

That helped. Some.

“I’m an avid snowboarder, and this was just another way that I could enjoy the mountain scenery, get a little bit of cardio and then get to the top enjoy view and then rip the mountain down,” snowboarder Lacy Burdette said. “I would rather work up a sweat, get my heart rate up and earn it. … Earn my turns,” she said.

Like most everything, practice makes better. You know, and with fitness like the more you get out there and the more you do it, the easier it gets over time,” explained uphill skier Sterling Snyder, who admitted he enjoys the uphill as much as skiing down.

With our turns, “earned,” we now had to strip off the skins while riders had to also click the split boards back together.

It’s a bit of a process, but all part of a different way of thinking. A different way to approach the mountain.

“I try to enjoy ... a little bit of a mental break going uphill, put some music and listen to a podcast and just kind of you know, relax. And get away from everything,” Snyder said.

There is no doubt that going downhill is better than up. It’s the reward for the effort.

But those turns are just a bit sweeter when you’ve really earned them.

About the Author

John Carlin co-anchors the 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on WSLS 10.