Following Mike onto the tram, I marvel at the size of his pack compared with mine. Not that it surprises me.
After several days of back-and-forth about the menus — we get appetizers, dinner and breakfast — we’d finally settled on a cheese, fruit and salami plate as an appetizer, tortellini with a smoked salmon tomato cream sauce and fresh bread for dinner, and bagels, eggs, fruit and coffee for breakfast. All of this is in Mike’s pack.
My friends and I have small packs, albeit not particularly light ones. The yurt is BYOB.
In addition to the flask of Baileys, I also have one filled with Drambuie. And in case the card and dice games that are a yurt’s usual evening entertainments get out of hand, an entire bottle of 12-year-old Macallan. Oh, and a toothbrush, a headlamp, clothes to sleep in and down booties to put on when my ski boots come off. (You really don’t want to forget shoes to change into; using an outhouse, even in winter, isn’t that bad … unless you have to put on wet ski boots to walk outside.)
TO THE YURT
Sitting on a ridge between the Hobacks and Rock Springs Canyon, which is part of the resort’s 3,000 acres of side-country terrain, the yurt is accessible by different routes.
My friends and I are all experienced backcountry skiers with the gear and avalanche knowledge to ski the side-country — terrain that’s accessible via lifts but is not patrolled, controlled for avalanches or marked for hazards. Wanting to settle in as quickly as possible, we opt for the fastest route: inbounds down Rendezvous Bowl to Rendezvous Trail to the South Hoback.
Though Rendezvous Bowl and the South Hoback are ungroomed black-diamond runs, Mike says that he has helped intermediate skiers get to the yurt. “We just take our time,” he says. Less-skilled skiers can also talk to the resort about getting to the yurt via a combination of snowmobile and snowshoe. Parents with young kids have sometimes done this.
Advanced skiers looking for adventure can hire a trained backcountry guide for a half-day of side-country skiing that ends at the yurt.
Following Mike down the South Hoback, we ski past a “Resort Boundary” sign. Several more turns and we’re at the yurt, which is literally a snowball’s throw outside the boundary. (I test this later.)
Unaware of the two igloos just uphill of the yurt — built as overflow accommodations — I almost launch off one. (Mike tells us that he once yurtmeistered for a group of 27; there’s room for only 10 inside the yurt.)
Having propped our skis up against the deck’s railing, we head inside. Bunk beds line the walls. Just to the left of the door are a kitchen counter and cabinets. Prayer flags stretch across the ceiling. There’s a skylight in the center over the dining table.
We throw our packs onto bunks, which come with two-inch-thick sleeping pads. Some bunks are wide enough to sleep couples comfortably. Mike gets the wood-burning stove going and then wanders outdoors to collect snow to melt for water.
Unpacking, I’m amazed at the breadth of our makeshift bar. We give Mike a locally brewed Snake River Lager and he begins slicing, preparing an hors d’oeuvres platter that could be dinner for a family of four.
We get out of our ski clothes. One friend sprawls out on his bunk.