Forget the lift lines. Want a winter getaway that doesn’t involve crowds or $12 beers at uppity resort bars? Idaho’s backcountry adventures are all about peaceful isolation and raw winter exposure that you won’t forget.
Hut-to-hut tours are a growing trend for winter extremists. The folks at Sun Valley Trekking, an outfitter near Sun Valley, lead small groups on these physically strenuous, multi-day tours. Participants trek through and play in untouched powder stashes all day. At night, they stay in cozy huts or yurts, complete with cedar saunas or wood-fired hot tubs. Trekkers enjoy elaborate camp-style meals, board games, and camaraderie.
Sun Valley Trekking also offers Backcountry Powder Day Tours and Cross Country Day Tours for shorter jaunts. Call 208-788-1966 for rates and reservations. www.svtrek.com
For Nordic ski rentals near Hailey, Sturtevants rents skis and snowshoes. To stay warm on the mountain, trekkers should carry some Idaho potato-distilled 44 North Vodka. The Mountain Huckleberry flavor is smooth enough to stand alone (www.rockymountainvodka.com).
The Sawtooth Mountain Guides in Stanley, ID (3 hours northwest of Boise) host customized guided backcountry yurt trips through the Sawtooth Mountains. These outfitters have special use permits that let guests access various terrain based on preferences and abilities.
The Sawtooth Mountain Guides also offer Avalanche Education courses; invaluable survival guides for any winter enthusiast. Visit www.sawtoothguides.com to view all the tour options the Sawtooth Guides offer.
The Mountain Village Resort in Stanley rents cross-country skis and sells food, booze, and supplies trekkers might need before heading up the mountain (www.mountainvillage.com).
The Payette Powder Guides in McCall, only three hours north of Boise, is another ski-in, ski-out option. Guests can either ski in and bring their own food, or take a guided, fully catered ski trip to the cabin, which is nestled in the side of Beaverdam Peak at 8,563 feet.
All self-guided groups are required to have a trip leader who is Level I Avalanche Safety Course certified. The Payette Guides can provide a trip leader, which is a good option: they usually know where the best powder stashes are. Plus, they have good stories to share around the fire. Visit www.payettepowderguides.com for more information.
For travelers who don’t want to carry their skis on the plane, Pro Peak Sports in McCall rents standard, Nordic and Telemark skis and boots (www.propeaksports.com).
Before heading up the mountain, or for a good warm-up afterwards, McCall’s Forester’s Club & Dog House Saloon is a northwest classic. Visitors will find live music at night and an eclectic offering of northwest microbrews. (www.forestersclubmccall.com).