In Defense of Skiing Alone

An ode to flying solo

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Micah Hinton tends to schedule ski days at the very last minute, based on snow conditions. “I would love to go skiing with people, but if they can’t go, that’s not going to stop me,” said 45-year-old Hinton, who works as the sales manager for Flylow Gear. “I chase storms. I look at the snow first, decide where I’m going, then I’ll send out a text to friends to see if anyone wants to go—which they rarely do because I plan so late.”

Hinton doesn’t mind going solo. In fact, sometimes he prefers it. “I make decisions that I think are right for me,” he said. “Everything from meals to where I stay, it’s nice to sometimes be on your own program and do what you want to do.”

Admittedly—skiing is something that’s usually more fun and safer when done with a partner or two. I’ve always considered ski outings an inherently social activity, a thing you do with friends or family. But lately, I’ve been thinking: If I don’t have anyone to go skiing with, that shouldn’t stop me from skiing, right?

The mountains are calling and I must go (by myself).

At home in Tahoe City, California, where I live, I ski inbounds at ski areas by myself a lot. I may try to find a friend to join me, but schedules don’t always align, so often, I end up solo. Honestly, I quite enjoy it. I’ve learned to appreciate the singles’ line, make friends with chatty strangers on the chairlift and ski top to bottom without stopping if I feel like it. Mostly, I’ve come to enjoy the fact that I can decide exactly where I’m skiing and when I’m calling it quits. No more standing at the top of the lift and chatting idly while sorting out which run to ski next.

In the backcountry, partners are just as critical as your avalanche beacon, shovel and probe, so if I don’t have a pal, I stick to inbounds terrain. But even then, I sometimes worry about skiing at the resort by myself. What if I fall and break a leg in a hard-to-reach area? What if I get lost and nobody knows where I am? I do try to notify someone where I’ll be and when I’m expected home, just in case, and I ski with a phone in my pocket, with the direct number for ski patrol added in my contacts. But the truth is: Being outside and alone is extremely gratifying.

There are certain destinations that are especially welcoming to solo skiers. At Alta, Utah, most of the lodges—including Alta Lodge, Snowpine Lodge and Alta Peruvian Lodge—have friendly staff willing to point you toward the good terrain. And a new breed of hostel-like lodges tend to provide private spaces at a relatively affordable price, like the Pangea Pod Hotel in Whistler, British Columbia, the new Cache House in Jackson, Wyoming, or the Homestyle Hostel in Ludlow, Vermont. 

In addition, many ski resorts offer free mountain tours—inquire about where and when to meet from a mountain host—or you can book a guided outing at most resorts for a fee. If you want to head into the backcountry, take a class on avalanche awareness or backcountry touring and consider hiring a guide in locations ranging from British Columbia to Colorado to Norway via the site 57Hours.

As for me, I’m still happy with my solo ski days close to home. These days, I’m increasingly inclined to agree with Hinton: If nobody can join me, that shouldn’t mean I can’t go.

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