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Cross-country getaways.

There's a new generation of nordic ski retreats around the West . . . from posh lodges to back-country huts

Though it snowed all night, the brilliant blue of the morning sky now looks as dazzling as the fresh white blanket covering the ground. You're eager to lace up your boots, clip on your cross-country skis, grab your poles, and go. And nothing stops you: no need to shovel out your car, mess with chains, or negotiate slippery roads. Outside, a groomer has set new tracks-or a snow-filled alpine bowl awaits your first telemark turn. Skiing right outside your door is the most obvious appeal of lodgings just for crosscountry skiers. Another plus is what they don't have: the congestion of most downhill resorts or the whine of snowmobiles. Add evenings shared around the fire with people of like interests, and you have a formula for a successful skiing vacation. As the sport itself has grown and diversified over the past decade, so have the accommodations. Scores of nordic retreats around the West now offer an astonishing range of choices. Opt for a rustic ranch or historic hotel, a posh lodge, or a back-country yurt. Dine in an elegant restaurant, eat family-style in a raftered lodge, or gather around the woodstove for a communally prepared meal. Ski in machine-set tracks, or break a trail through newly fallen powder. Try out new nordic techniques, such as skating, or simply master the classic diagonal stride and telemark turn.

It's all possible. To help you choose, we found places that satisfy some basic requirements. All cater primarily or exclusively to nordic skiers; this means they aren't part of a downhill ski area, nor do they cater to snowmobilers. All lie in scenic country with adjacent skiing (no need for you to drive once there). Lessons are available, and meals are served on-site.

We then divided the selection into three broad categories:

Full-service resorts. Expect to find the most creature comforts at these locations: whirlpool baths, private rooms with bath, housekeeping. Most are accessible by car. All offer 20 kilometers or more of machine-set tracks, as well as access to backcountry skiing. Rentals are available on the premises. At each resort, you'll find enough varied ski terrain and other activities to keep you busy for several days.

Off-road lodges. These snowbound hideaways cater to skiers who want to get away from it all but don't want to ski all day with a pack to do it. Most are on quiet roads passed up by the plows; to get there, you may have to ski in a short distance (gear is carried in by snowcat) or catch a ride on a snowcat yourself.

Ski-in back-country huts. Getting to these remote wilderness outposts, even in the company of an expert guide, can be arduous: you pack in most of your own gear. But once you get there, the solitude and skiing-can be unsurpassed. Shelter is more spartan, but woodstoves and hearty food create an atmosphere of cozy camaraderie. You use one hut as a base camp for unburdened day trips, or cover a lot of ground by skiing hut to hut.


Family-style to deluxe lodging, some with meals included. Groomed trails, back-country tours

There's a world of difference among these resorts-in lodging, skiing, service, apresski and children's activities, and meals. We mention some differences here; call or write for more details.

The rates we give are for two people, double occupancy; an * indicates all meals included. A deluxe lodge with rates up to $300 a night might include everything two people need for a complete ski vacation; others charge extra for lessons, rentals, tours, sleigh rides, or meals. Ask about packages and low-season, long-stay, or family discounts.

Also ask about snow conditions (some resorts have snow-making equipment). Check what kind of grooming is done (multiple tracks, skating lanes), how often, and with what (a Pisten-Bully is the Rolls-Royce of track-setting machines).

Are instructors certified? Can you rent different types of gear, such as telemarking skis? How many rental sets are available (enough for all guests)? Ask if rentals are replaced yearly (a good sign). Is the resort close enough to downhill facilities for some alpine skiing?

Arizona. Mormon Lake Lodge, Box 12, Mormon Lake 86038; (602) 354-2227; $45 to $75. Expect plenty of sun, powder, and wildlife here. The lodge lies at 7,200 feet on the Colorado Plateau; 80 guests stay in cabins (some have kitchens and fireplaces), or in simple duplexes (none with kitchens).

California. Montecito-Sequoia, Box 858, Grant Grove 93633; (415) 967-8612; $140.* Perched at 7,500 feet, this resort is surrounded by spectacular Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks; 125 guests stay in a newly renovated main lodge or neighboring buildings. Features include back-country tours and family activities. Sorensen's, Hope Valley96120; (916) 694-2203; $50 to $175. Guests (75) stay in snug log cabins (sleep 2 to 6); most have kitchens and woodstoves, and all have housekeeping, Skiing is in the Hope Valley region (elevation 7,000), 20 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe. After ski, enjoy cocoa in the lodge, or take a sauna.

Tamarack/Rossignol Nordic Ski Center, Box 69, Mammoth Lakes 93546; (619) 934-2442; $60 to $95. Exceptional snowfall here means skiing often lasts into May. Guests (75) stay in a handsome 1924 lodge or in cabins (sleep up to 8; most have kitchens and woodstoves). Fresh ingredients and a fine wine list highlight the center's restaurant.

Colorado. Beaver Meadows Resort, Box 2167, Fort Collins 80522; (303) 4821845; $30 to $62. Guests (60) stay in condominiums or simple cabins (sleep 4 to 6), all with cooking facilities. Family activities include tubing and skating.

C-Lazy-U Guest Ranch, Box 378-B, Granby 80446; 887-3344; $200 to $250.* At this 2,000-acre ranch, 70 guests stay in a comfortable, motel-style lodge or in cabins or duplex rooms (some with fireplaces). The hearty restaurant keeps skiers well fed.

Devil's Thumb Ranch, Box 3154, Winter Park 80482; 726-5632; $120 to $140 (breakfast and dinner only). The resort has 55 kilometers of set tracks 5 miles from the Continental Divide; they link with Idiewild Lodge's network (see below). Guests (63) stay in one of two rustic log lodges or a 4-bedroom house; dining is in separate lodge.

Home Ranch, Box 822, Clark 80428; 8791780; $300.* At this retreat, 25 guests stay in luxurious cabins tucked in the aspens (each with outdoor whirlpool tub), or in the elegant main lodge, Pricy, but everything is included, Fine food is served family-style in the lodge. Resort is 17 miles north of Steamboat Springs.

Idlewild Lodge, Box 3, Winter Park 80482; 726-5562; $100 (breakfast, dinner). Motel-style lodging for 93 guests is simple, but there's good novice skiing through meadows and aspen groves; the resort's 30 kilometers of tracks link with those of Devil's Thumb Ranch (see left). Snow Mountain Ranch, Box 169, Winter Park 80482; 887-2152; $20 to $78. On this 4,600-acre ranch, up to 1,400 guests choose from houses (2 to 6 bedrooms), a motel, lodges, and bunk-bed rooms. Lodgings are grouped for an uncrowded ambience. Skiers enjoy views of the Continental Divide on 65 kilometers of tracks.

Vista Verde Ranch, Box 465, Steamboat Springs 80477; 879-3858; $170.* Six attractive log cabins (sleep 2 to 6, some with kitchens) make up this small (15 to 25 guests) ranch. Meals, served family-style in the lodge, include local game (elk, venison); work them off in the new fitness spa.

Idaho. Busterback Ranch, Star Route, Ketchum 83340; (208) 774-2217; $250.* Out the door of romantic homesteader cabins, each with woodstove, lie immaculately groomed trails winding through pines. There's a striking new wing on the lodge, where meals are served for up to 18 guests.

Montana. Lone Mountain Ranch, Box 69, Big Sky 59716; (406) 995-4644; $214.* Sixty guests stay in cabins (each with woodstove or fireplace) on this 2,000-acre ranch. New snow-making equipment was installed this season. Excellent ranchstyle cuisine with a gourmet twist keeps skiers fortified. Optional trips to ski in Yellowstone National Park.

Izaak Walton Inn, Box 653, Essex 59916; (406) 888-5700; $43 to $69. This charmingly restored 1939 railroad hotel (75 guests) is again served by Amtrak; roundtrip coach ftom Seattle is $116. Ski on 30 kilometers of set track, or take a guided back-country tour (new this year) in adjacent Glacier National Park.

Oregon. Blue Lake Resort, Star Route, Box 13900, Sisters 97759; (503) 5956675; $40 to $78. The 60 guests at this homey, low-key, family-oriented resort stay in A-frames, townhouses, and log cottages (2 to 12 persons). Snowcat tours access back country in Deschutes National Forest.

Washington. Sun Mountain Lodge, Box 1000, Winthrop 98862; (509) 996-2211; $65 to $85. This complex is the flagship of the surrounding Methow Valley "nordic region" on the Cascades' eastern flank. Up to 180 guests stay in the motel-style lodge or in simple cabins (sleep up to 4; all with kitchens, fireplaces). Enjoy skiing on 150 kilometers of tracks. Ski school and rental equipment are excellent.

Other Methow Valley choices are the new Mazama Country Inn (Box 223, Mazama 98833; 996-2681; $130), the homey North Cascades Base Camp (Star Route, Box 36, Mazama 98833; 996-2334; $76 to $90), and the unadorned Virginian Motel (Box 237, Winthrop 98862; 996-2535; $40 to $65). For details, write to Methow Valley Central Reservations, Box 505, Winthrop 98862; or call 996-2148.


Get away from it all. Ski in (or go by snowcat) . Sleep in a dorm, yurt, or private room Accommodations at these secluded retreats vary widely, though they tend toward rustic. At one spot, you bunk dormitory-style in a woodstove-heated yurt; at another, you can curl up in front of a fire and watch video movies before retiring to a private room upstairs.

It's wise to write or call ahead to check details on rental equipment, snow-grooming techniques, and instruction, Rides in, if provided, are by snowcat.

Unless noted, rates are per person and include meals and lessons.

Arizona. North Rim Nordic Center, Box 2997, Flagstaff 86003; (602) 526-0924; $105. A 26-mile ride brings guests to two back-country yurts (each sleeps 15, dormstyle) and a warming hut-lodge. This new facility lies 18 miles north of the Grand Canyon in meadows fringed with aspen and pine. Activities include ski tours and snowcat rides to canyon overlooks.

California. Rock Creek Winter Lodge, Route 1, Box 5, Mammoth Lakes 93546; (619) 935-4464; $150 for two-night minimum. Guests ride in 2 miles to this retreat-perched at 9,300 feet next to John Muir Wilderness-and stay in the lodge or in one of 13 cabins (sleep 3 to 8, no running water). Skiing is on 55 kilometers of groomed tracks and ungroomed but marked trails. (For details on Rock Creek's yurts, see page 58.)

Royal Gorge Cross-country Ski Resort, Box 178, Soda Springs 95728; (916) 4263871; $185 for two-night minimum. This resort, 24 miles northwest of Lake Tahoe, has the most groomed trails of any nordic resort: a whopping 305 kilometers. Lodgings are dorm-style, but food is anything but simple: it's gourmet French provincial. Enjoy back-country and moonlight tours, or relax in the hot tub.

Colorado. The Saints, Box 30-B, Montezuma 80435; (303) 468-5378; $19 dormitory, $59 for 2 in a cabin (no electricity or running water; meals extra). Guests ski in 1-1/2 miles to the ghost town of Sts. John, 75 miles west of Denver, for back-country skiing in Arapaho National Forest. Lodgings are dorm-style in a renovated building, or in one of 2 woodstove-warmed cabins (sleep 7, with cooking facilities available). Activities include full-moon helicopter skiing ($50).

Saint Paul Cross-country Ski Lodge, Box 463, Silverton 81433; 387-5494; $60 to $65. "Not for the Lycra crowd," says Christopher George of his hundred-yearold rustic hostelry, 11,000 feet up in the San Juan Mountains. Skiers enjoy backcountry touring and telemarking. Price covers equipment and guide service. Accessible only by a 1 -mile ski-in, the lodge has hot and cold running water and a sauna, but no electricity. Lodging is either dorm-style or in private rooms.

Idaho. Lucky Dog Retreat, Box 128, Island Park 83429; (208) 558-7455; $60 to $70. This retreat features naturalist-guided tours of nearby Yellowstone National Park and Harriman State Park, both rich in wildlife. Guests ski in 3-1/2 miles-or ride a snowcat-pulled sleigh-to a lodge and 2 cabins (each sleeps six). The retreat has 35 kilometers of groomed trails.

Washington. Mountain Home Lodge, Box 687, Leavenworth 98826; (509) 5487077; $128 to $148 for two. Guests ride in 3 miles to this nine-room lodge. Besides skiing on 25 kilometers of tracks or heading off-trail, guests can snowshoe, toboggan, soak in an outdoor hot tub with views of the Cascades, or relax and watch videos in front of a 2-story stone fireplace.

Scottish Lake Nomad Camps, Box 312, Leavenworth 98826; 548-7330; $140. Travel 8 miles by snowcat to this no-frills cabin compound, at 5,000 feet in the eastern Cascades. Guests ski on 50 kilometers of marked trails and unplowed roads, or telemark in open bowls.

Back-Country Huts

Ski in to remote outposts. Enjoy hearty food, cozy camaraderie around the woodstove Our last report on ski huts (December 1982) talked about hut-to-hut systems, a concept imported from Europe. Since then, more individual huts have sprung up around the West. With these, you ski in, shed your heavy pack, then explore the surrounding terrain on day outings.

These trips require more advance preparation than other types of nordic retreats. You'll need a pack and equipment designed for the back country: wider skis, sturdy over-the-ankle boots, poles with large baskets, and climbing skins. (See page 70 of the December 1987 Sunset.) Some guide services offer rentals. Or check a ski shop or sporting goods store, Although hut trips can be tailored for all skill levels, most are best suited for people in good shape who can execute basic turns on nordic skis. Participants should have some wilderness experience.

Hut trips aren't for the reclusive. Lodgings are usually simple cabins, semipermanent wall tents, or yurts. You sleep dorm-style, on cots or bunks, so bring ear plugs if you're a light sleeper. Meals are often communally prepared and shared. None of our huts has running water, so you'll have to cross the snow to visit the outhouse.

Here, we list huts served by guides. The guides add considerable cost to the trip but reduce risks of avalanche and other winter hazards. They also teach off-track techniques, such as telemarking; some do meal planning, packing, and preparation. All buts are heated by woodstove and stocked with cooking gear. Some also have bedding on hand, so you won't have to pack it in. However, you will have to carry at least your own personal gear. Most day trips are less than 10 miles, though lengthier routes are possible. Prices are per person, all meals included unless noted.

California. Bear Valley Cross Country, Box 5207, Bear Valley 95223; (209) 7532834. Two- or three-day trips, $90 or $130, visit a snug cabin in Stanislaus National Forest. Three-day trip includes time for telemarking in a bowl that rises 1,000 feet above the cabin. Six-mile ski-in requires at least intermediate skills.

Cody Hut Ski Treks, 3520 Forni Rd., Placerville 95667; (916) 626-5097. Fred Hartmeyer leads up to a dozen skiers to a renovated sheepherders' cabin in Eldorado National Forest, 15 miles south of Lake Tahoe. Choose a 17-mile one-way trip (shuttle provided to trailhead), or a 13-mile loop; either route takes at least two days ($65 a day, bedding included; additional day at the hut is optional).

Rock Creek Winter Lodge, Route 1, Box 5, Mammoth Lakes 93546; (619) 9354464. Three wood-and-canvas huts lie above 10,000 feet in an eastern Sierra canyon. Scheduled three-day trips ($200) include first night's stay at the lodge (see page 56). Custom trips are available.

Wilsonia Ski Touring, Box 855, Kings Canyon National Park 93633; (209) 3352404. Skiers head in 4 miles to two cabins just west of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. Two-day trip costs $90, three days $135, $45 each additional day. Colorado. Alfred A. Braun Hut System, Box 7937, Aspen 81612; (303) 925-7345. Six cabins at elevations between 10,200 and 11,600 feet surround the ghost town of Ashcroft, 11 miles south of Aspen. For details on guided trips of varying lengths and skill levels ($110 a day), write to Elk Mountain Guides, Box 10327, Aspen 81612, or call 925-9075.

Crested Butte Nordic Center, Box 1269, Crested Butte 81224; 349-6201. This new nonprofit group offers trips to four huts above the old mining town of Crested Butte. Trips range from an easy 2-mile tour to a demanding 11 -mile trek that climbs 2,500 feet. Prices vary according to duration of trip and services provided; call or write for details.

Never Summer Nordic, Box 1254, Fort Collins 80522; 484-3903. Three yurts with wood decks (ideal for afternoon sunning) lie in fairly gentle terrain in Colorado State Forest, about 70 miles west of Fort Collins. Cost for group (up to 6 skiers) is $130 and up.

San Juan Hut System, Box 1663, Telluride 81435; 728-6935. Tbis 45-mile system encircling the Sneffels Range opened last year with three huts built from roughcut spruce; three more huts will be in place this winter. Hut fee is $12; guide service is $100 a day for a group of up to 6 (prestocked provisions or catered meals cost extra).

Tenth Mountain Trail Association, 1280 Ute Ave., Aspen 81611; 925-5775. The West's largest system now has 10 solidly built huts encircling Holy Cross Wilderness. Some huts have solar power and saunas. Paragon Guides (Box 130, Vail 81658; 949-4272) offers three- to eightday trips ($360 to $990, with sleeping bag). Also try Elk Mountain Guides, listed under the Alfred A. Braun Hut System, at left.

Idaho. Rendezvous Ski Tours, Box 22, Victor 83455; (208) 787-2906. Climb 2,000 feet on 4-mile ski-in, crossing the Idaho-Wyoming border to a yurt deep in the precipitous Teton Range. Trips cost $60 a day per person for 2 to 4 people, $55 for 5 or more.

Sun Valley Trekking, Box 2200, Sun Valley 83353; 788-9585. Three-hut system lets you ski between two wall tents in the Sawtooths, or stay in a third in the Smoky Mountains. Two- to eight-day trips cost $75 a day and up, depending on gear and services provided.

Wilderness River Outfitters, Box 871, Salmon 83467; 756-3959. Setting out ftom Lost Trail Pass on the IdahoMontana border, skiers visit two yurts in the Bitterroot Mountains. Price is $350 for three-day trip, $500 for five-day outing (includes gear and sleeping bag).

Oregon. Wilderness Trails, Box 9252, Moscow, Idaho 83843; (208) 882-1955. Three wall tents (one with sauna) and a yurt make up this camp, in the remote Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowa Mountains. Three-day trips are $165 and up, depending on services; five-day trips are $435 and up.

Utah. Solitude Nordic Center, Box 17557, Salt Lake City 84117; (801) 2727613. Deep in the Wasatch Range, skiers climb 600 feet out of Big Cottonwood Canyon, then go down 700 feet to a yurt (total distance is 3-1/2 miles). A two-day trip costs $230 and up for a group (up to 8). Three-day trips cost $345 and up.

Powder Ridge Ski Touring, Box 3242, Logan 84321; 753-2346. Two yurts provide overnight stops on an 11-mile loop route in Bear River Range's Logan Canyon, 25 miles east of Logan. Trips cost $135 and up a day for groups up to 6.
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Title Annotation:back-country huts
Article Type:directory
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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