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Activating summits in Ski Areas

Today I activated Granite Chief, 9005 ft (2745m) at the edge of Squaw Valley ski area in California. I took the highest lift to 8610ft and carried my skis and radio gear the remaining 400ft in the snow to the summit. My rig ended up sitting on the USGS brass plate embedded in a handy rock! According to the rules, I seem to have been independent of motorised transport for my “final access”, and indeed the huffing and puffing I exhibited certainly seemed to be in the spirit of SOTA! But what if the lift goes to the summit? Do I need to descend a certain amount of vertical height and walk back up again? What should that height be?

By the way, 20m wasn’t great, thanks to audio problems with my new FT857D, but 2m simplex was great - my 3el yagi at 9000ft seemed to be heard all over northern California!

In reply to NZ6J:

Hello Rob,

Well done on the climb in the snow.

I have not looked at the US rules, but based on the General SOTA rules, you could take the lift to the top, then descend to at least 25 m (a bit over 82 feet) vertically below the summit, then climb back up into the activation zone prior to assembling the station and starting to make contacts. By skiing or walking down out of the activation zone with the gear, and then climbing back into the activation zone, your final approach has been by non-motorised means.

If the lift finishes on the summit, it might be wise to set up the station a little away from the summit but still in the activation zone, away from the paths of the skiers - safer for you and them!

I trust that I am correct in my interpretation…


Peter VK3PF

In reply to VK3PF:

Thanks Peter for the quick reply. There are a couple more unactivated summits in ski areas here, so the clarification is timely.



In reply to NZ6J:

The only relevant rule is “The method of final access to the summit must be non-motorised.” But many people look at rule “All SOTA operations are expected to be conducted in the spirit of the programme.” and decide that to be in the spirit of the programme they should descend to the limit of the activation zone and re-ascend to their selected activation position. This is fair enough. However, it is recognised that a selection of easy summits is a useful thing to have so that unfit and disabled hams can take some part in SOTA, so the rule is deliberately left a little vague. You do what you can.


Brian G8ADD

PS I’m sorry to hear that you have audio problems with your FT-857. If it is a setting-up problem you may find some useful information in a recent thread “FT-857 users please.”

In reply to NZ6J:

I ended up having to use the technique that Brian described when I activated Scott Peak yesterday at the Alpine Meadows ski resort.

They had ‘area closed’ signs blocking the route up to the peak from the top of the Scott Chair lift, so I had to ski back down and take the Lakeview lift up instead. I then discovered that Scott Peak is actually outside the ski area boundary. I was already inside the activation zone at this point, so I skied down a bit, hiked back up, and ended up operating right on the ski area boundary with a great view of Lake Tahoe. The rest of the story is here:


and my photos are here:


I think we’ll have to do the same thing when we activate Mt. Lincoln, as Sugar Bowl’s lift goes all the way to the summit.


Eric KU6J

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In reply to KU6J:

Hi Eric,

Nice photos. While the ascend method you used is prefectly fine I should mention an other way that I usually use myself. Namely alpine touring skis that can be used to ascend the slope from the bottom of the valley. This is good if you are looking for a little longer endurance exercise in addition to the SOTA activation. See for example the wiki on ski touring

73, Jaakko OH7BF/F5VGL

In reply to F5VGL:

A perfect ski for hiking and descending:

Altai skis: http://www.altaiskis.com/blog/products/the-hok/

In reply to NZ6J:

Some ski areas in Oregon and Washington have explicit policies regarding uphill travel - others ski areas may as well. Uphill travel or hiking includes skinning or cross country skiing as well as climbing and snowshoeing. Some areas restrict uphill travel completely while others accommodate it with designated routes and time restrictions. The basic arguments revolve around safety as uphill travelers could have conflicts with downhill skiers and also be on slopes where and when grooming equipment is operating or when avalanche control is being conducted. These uphill travel restrictions are in addition to what ski areas do to restrict out of bounds skiing.

I suppose, in the “spirit of SOTA,” being aware of and adhering to the policies of ski areas should be considered when activating a peak within or accessed through a ski area.

Etienne, K7ATN

In reply to K7ATN:

Hi Etienne

It’s interesting to hear about these sorts of restrictions. Being a bit of a free spirit I would make sure that I was many miles from any such places!

I do once recall ending a winter mountaineering trip by dropping off a summit into a ski resort. The change in environment from pristine wilderness to the chutzpah of a ski resort was enough to put me off downhill skiing for life. Cross-country skiing I enjoy, downhill’s not for me.

For me my test of what is right or wrong is to consider could I honestly say to a friend that I had climbed the hill in question. If not, for me that would not be a valid ascent.