The tradition continues! From near and far, a group of hearty skiers gathered for the 5th annual Yurtika. The destination for this year was the Coyote Yurts, and like the past couple years, deep powder was on the menu. Fun times and awesome skiing – doesn’t get much better!
Braving Blizzards on El Capitan: SVT guides Chris Marshall and Niels Meyer prep for winter
With the snow starting to fall in the mountains, the stoke for the upcoming winter is palatable. At times the feeling of time is transcended throughout our life and our daily routine; as I prepare for winter, I feel that both the last ski season just ended, and its been an eternity since I put away for boards for the summer. Reflecting back on the past 8 months, the latter is probably more accurate. I don’t spend the off months in Sun Valley and work takes me to other amazing places in the West, and a lot of mountain stoke has happened. As a professional guide, and one that is one final exam away from full AMGA/IFMGA international Mountain Guide certification, I need to critically balance my time in the outdoors, and make sure that I am giving due process to work (pays the bills), professional development and training (important for the profession), and lastly, having some personal fun.
This past year, I focused heavily on working and professional development. I was successful in passing my AMGA Ski Guide Exam in April, working a full summer guiding season in the Pacific Northwest, passing my Alpine Aspirant Exam in September, and passing my Rock Exam in October. Whew! That was a lot. While I attribute this success to both personal dedication and professional development, the role that mentorship has played cannot be understated. Once my Rock Exam was over, I wanted to take some personal climbing time to revisit the stoke and passion that climbing has always brought to me, which at times can be overshadowed by work. I also wanted to take the opportunity to visit and spend time with friends throughout climbing areas in the West that have played a pivotal role in who I am today and also wanted to create new milestones in my climbing career. Furthermore, I wanted to take the opportunity to give back and offer mentorship and share my experience with others. Apprentice guide, Niels Meyer was game to come along on the wild ride with me. Please enjoy the photo essay of our adventures below, and I hope to ski with you this season! :SVT Guide Chris Marshall
Our first stop was Red Rock Canyon. The climbing here is super varied, with everything between overhanging sport routes, excellent splitter crack, technical face climbs, and long multi-pitch adventure routes.
Eventually it was time to leave the desert, Yosemite Valley was calling. The Valley was another monumental place as I developed as a climber, and not having climbed there much in the last few years, the bucket list was starting to grow.
Cool temps and the first winter storm had chased away many folks from the Valley and off of El Capitan. As a team of three, Niels, Greg, and I had been planning on climbing the Muir Wall, but with the possibility of another winter storm on the horizon, we set our sights on the classic and steep Zodiac (5.8 A3/C3). We took a few days prepping, teaching Niels the ins and outs of aid climbing, and packing for 4-5 days on the wall. We had hoped to spend 3 nights, but with the cold, the storm, and the short days, we topped out after 5 long and amazing days living and breathing in the vertical. We believe that we were one of two parties on El Cap for the storm, which brought snow down to the valley floor and temperatures in the 20s.
Niels and I are in Indian Creek sampling some of the best desert splitters on earth in a lower stress environment. We’ll head over to the San Juan Mountains for some early season ice before this adventure ends, back in Sun Valley, where we’ll have time to reflect on this journey, dream of the next adventure, and get stoked for the ski season ahead!
At the start of every winter season, we celebrate the coming of winter with a BIG fire. Unlike people who love spending their time inside their rooms in the warmth of their furnaces operating constantly with an abundant amount of propane (which can be sourced from kellypropane.com), we prefer to honor the change of the season and the coming days of arcing down mountains on skis by a bonfire. We honor the Norse God Ullr, known as a great skier who would leave trails of stars behind his skis and drink to his health with hopes he will smile upon us. This year we had the annual Ullr fire up at the Boulder Yurts, where we had a giant pile of slash from recent woodcuts. Friends, family and guides came to celebrate the new snow and the joy of the coming ski season. Considering this fire was going to one of the biggest we’ve had so far, and we knew small children and families would be attending, we made sure to get as much information on fire safety and the different extinguishers we’d be able to use to douse the flames. Fire safety is still imperative in the snow!
And an early season it has become. On November 1st, we were riding bikes in the spitting snow and by the 4th, we were floating down fields of powder on skis. The recent storm dropped snow to the valley bottoms but favored the upper elevations in the Smoky and Boulder Mountains with over 20″. This storm snow has settled significantly this week, hopefully creating a good base for our next storm predicted to drop 5-10″ in the next 48hrs.
Hopefully this portends the start of an epic ski season where we can all celebrate with Ullr!
Sucking the marrow of Autumn while we prepare for Winter
Autumn is transition time. It’s a time of long shadows, cold nights and anticipation of the winter to come. It is the time when we at SVT are prepping the 6 backcountry ski huts and prepping our legs and lungs for the ski season ahead. While we cut wood at three huts using trucks, much of the work we are doing at the huts requires access via human power. For us, that typically means riding our bikes. We are blessed with an awesome network of trails in our local mountains that allow us to spin our bikes, often with awkward loads, from hut to hut. The bikes have an added benefit of prepping our bodies for the ski touring season while providing the feeling of “flow” that is so vital to our souls.
SVT owner and guide, Joe St.Onge and partners, are just back from a big day (26 miles and over 7,000′ of riding) yesterday while checking in at Coyote, Tornak and Boulder Yurts. The trails were frozen solid and covered in frost in the morning and melted to “corn dirt” by mid-day. What follows are a collection of pictures from yesterday as well as from the past month of hut projects in the mountains.
Here’s to sucking the marrow from a beautiful autumn in anticipation of an awesome ski season!
A Yurt Wedding!
Family Fun in the Sawtooth
It’s late May in the mountains, ski season is over and the hint of summer is in the air. This is the time of year when we check in at all the ski huts to store them for the summer season. It’s a beautiful and quiet time in the mountains, with life springing forth. It’s a great time for SVT owners/guides, Joe and Francie St.Onge, to get out with their young children for fun adventures while taking care of this unique system of backcountry huts. Sometimes those “chores” require firing up the wood fired hot tub to check it’s function…
Chainsaws, Powder, Peaks and Cave Skiing at the Annual Sawtooth Woodcut
It’s been a tradition for over 30 years now, where every April, a few hearty souls embark on an adventure deep in the Sawtooth. Huge loads are packed up to huts that include great food, cold beer, chainsaws and gas. Over 8 cords of wood are cut (4+ at each Bench and Fishhook huts). One by one, we drop the abundant beetle killed pine trees and haul in the logs on shoulders and in sleds while on skis. The piles of logs can be intimidating, but every year we get it all in, bucked up and stacked in preparation for the following season. When the cut is done, the focus turns to skiing. We build the huts, cut the wood and haul the loads because we are skiers, inspired by the magic of the mountains that we live and work in. The Sawtooth smiled upon us this year with perfect conditions for both the cut and the skiing. Some cool new lines were explored, like the “skilunking” adventure in the “Bat Cave”, as well as some true classics in perfect conditions. Enjoy the pics!
It’s ski mountaineering season here in the high peaks of Idaho! SVT guide, Joe St.Onge, and a group of intrepid Montanans are just back from 4 days of peak skiing based out of the Pioneer Yurt. While the snow has been rapidly melting this spring, we are still finding good to excellent ski conditions in the alpine, and the Pioneer Yurt is a great place to visit if you want to go alpine! The approach to the Pioneer Yurt is largely snow free at this point (don’t even think about snowmobile access!), but we can drive to the summer trailhead. Once at the Yurt, conditions are a bit bony for another 800′, but there is reliable coverage and good ski conditions in the alpine basins above. It may not last long, so get it while you can! Enjoy the pics!
Stoked to be getting high
Family Yurting at the Boulder Yurts
It’s Spring Break for the local school kids and what better way to celebrate the changing of the seasons than to ski into a backcountry yurt! The Boulder Yurts are a great choice for families with younger kids as the approach is pretty easy, the sledding and skiing is super accessible and FUN and the yurts provide an amazing venue to get away. This week has seen a bunch of local families heading up to the Boulder Yurts with lots of adventures and fun had! Check out these pics of an overnight with SVT owners/guides (the St.Onge family) and friends. Good times!!
Exploring the Sawtooth
SVT guides, JP Preuss and Toby Citret, are just returning from 5 days in the Sawtooth traversing from Bench to Fishhook Huts. The trip began in far from ideal conditions with warm temps and rain to 10,000′. These weather conditions are almost unprecedented for this time of year! Fortunately, the weather turned colder and new snow fell, allowing the group to explore some of the amazing terrain that make up the heart of this spectacular range.