sierra backcountry skiing

5 Ski Trips of a Lifetime

WORDS: Shelby Carpenter
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For a more adventurous winter season, ski from hut to hut across the nation’s most beautiful terrain.

Crowds at the ski resort getting you down? The answer to your woes could lie in an adventurous backcountry ski trip.

The simplest setup could give you the experience of a lifetime. Strap your skis to your backpack and get away from the noise by enjoying some cozy lodgings at one of these top hut systems around the country.

sierra backcountry skiing

© Courtesy of Clair Tappaan Lodge

The Sierra Club Huts in California

Just a stone’s throw from Truckee, the Peter Grubb hut offers excellent skiing in the Castle Peak and Basin Peak areas of the Sierra range. There are also multiple options for link-ups with the other Sierra Club huts. You can ski from the Benson Hut near Donner Pass to the Bradley Hut in the Squaw Valley area, or link up Bradley Hut and Ludlow Hut to go from North to South Lake Tahoe.

Cost: $20/night

yurt skiing hut

© Mark Fisher

2 Jackson Hole Backcountry Ski Huts

These huts—high in the Teton backcountry—are actually yurts 20 feet in diameter with kitchens, propane stoves for cooking and wood stoves for heat. The Commissary Ridge Hut offers incredible views of the Grand, Middle, and South Tetons plus access to exceptional skiing. Teton Backcountry Guides also offers guided tours for people who want to link up different huts. 

Cost: Prices vary per hut

10th mountain hut backcountry ski

© Courtesy of 10th Mountain Division Huts

3 The 10th Mountain Division Huts

These huts are named after the division of the Army that trained in mountain warfare during World War II. Early in the 1980s, several skiers in Aspen came together to form the huts, including one skier who was a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division. Now, the 10th Mountain Division Huts include 34 different shelters—the most extensive hut system anywhere in Colorado. Ben Dodge, executive director for the group, recommends Uncle Bud’s Hut, the Peter Estin Hut, and the Eiseman Hut for the quality and variety of the skiing between and around them. 

Cost: $33/night and up

Catamount Trail Shelters

© Greg Maino

4 Catamount Trail Shelters

The Catamount Trail lets you ski-traverse the state of Vermont along backcountry and Nordic trails. “I’m really not aware of any other trails of its length,” says Amy Kelsey, executive director of the Catamount Trails Association. “It’s 300 miles running the whole length of the state. So that’s unique.” You can travel from private lodge to private lodge in nearby towns along the trail, and there is rustic outdoor camping available. For those who seek the best of both worlds—shelter while having a more rugged, outdoor experience—there are several shelters and lean-tos as part of the Long Trail (which parallels sections of Catamount). “There’s one shelter called Beaver Meadow Lodge. The building’s nothing fancy, but the location is really lovely,” Kelsey added. “The area around it has a great bowl to ski in and a number of trails in and out.” 

Cost: Free at the Long Trail Shelters

san juan huts backcountry skiing

© Jorg Greuel

5 The San Juan Huts

These are probably the best ski huts out there for quality and variety of terrain. “The whole area is spectacular. It’s eye candy everywhere you look,” says Joy Armstrong, manager of the huts. The huts were built by local legend Joe Ryan, who convinced the Forest Service to let him build the privately owned shelters on public land nearly 30 years ago. There are options from beginner to expert ability levels, though everyone setting out for a trip should know the basics of backcountry travel and navigation. Once you decide which areas you want to hit, you can access the huts as a one-off or trace your own hut-to-hut route.

Cost: $30/night

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10 2015

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