Oct 122017
 
Oct 232015
 
Autumn beauty riding out from Coyote Yurts

Autumn beauty riding out from Coyote Yurts

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!

Dave, riding up to Coyote Yurts

Dave, riding up to Coyote Yurts

Endless mountains and trails in the Smokey Mountains near the Coyote and Tornak Huts

Endless mountains and trails in the Smokey Mountains near the Coyote and Tornak Huts

What an office we have!

What an office we have!

Brian, dirt carving on the scenic way out of Coyote Yurts

Brian, dirt carving on the scenic way out of Coyote Yurts

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The newly relocated Boulder outhouse: with a view of Boulder Peak

The newly relocated Boulder outhouse: with a view of Boulder Peak

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Boulder yurts looking ready for the first skiers

Boulder yurts looking ready for the first skiers

The Pioneers above the Pio Yurt in all their glory

The Pioneers above the Pio Yurt in all their glory

Friends help insulate the Pioneer yurt for the coming season

Friends help insulate the Pioneer yurt for the coming season

Coyote Yurts, ready for the snow to fly

Coyote Yurts, ready for the snow to fly

SVT guides, Joe and Toby, buck up the sauna wood at Boulder Yurts

SVT guides, Joe and Toby, buck up the sauna wood at Boulder Yurts

SVT guide, Niels, braves a awkward load in style on the way to Fishhook Yurts

SVT guide, Niels, braves a awkward load in style on the way to Fishhook Yurts

Retired SVT guide/intern, Brian, finds some air coming into the Coyote Yurts

Retired SVT guide/intern, Brian, finds some air coming into the Coyote Yurts

The crew, biking through Tornak Huts on the way to Coyote Yurts to button up the huts for the snow to fly

The crew, biking through Tornak Huts on the way to Coyote Yurts to button up the huts for the snow to fly

SVT guides, JP and Toby, proud of the tight stack at Boulder Yurts

SVT guides, JP and Toby, proud of the tight stack at Boulder Yurts

SVT guide/owner, Joe St.Onge, bucking up a big tree at Boulder Yurts

SVT guide/owner, Joe St.Onge, bucking up a big tree at Boulder Yurts

Oct 202014
 
Francie riding up to the Pioneer Yurt

Francie riding up to the Pioneer Yurt

It’s the time of year when we cycle through the 6 huts in 3 different mountain ranges to get each hut ready for winter. We can remember many years when we were doing these annual chores in freezing temps and blizzards, but not this year. We have been blessed with one of the prettiest autumns we can remember here in Idaho. Perfect Indian Summer has persisted for over a month now with amazing foliage, crystal clear sunshine and generally stunning days. Much of the work we do this time of year requires access on bikes or foot. The current conditions have produced perfect melt/freeze conditions on the trails and some of the best biking of the year. Enjoy the pics from the various mountain ranges and huts and start getting stoked for the upcoming season!

Autumn tunnel

Autumn tunnel

Crossing the meadow to the Pio Yurt

Crossing the meadow to the Pio Yurt

Pioneer Yurt enjoying the Indian Summer Sun

Pioneer Yurt enjoying the Indian Summer Sun

ah, the peaks of the Pioneer Range

ah, the peaks of the Pioneer Range

The Bench Hut, waiting for a deep Sawtooth winter

The Bench Hut, waiting for a deep Sawtooth winter

Lakeview on the approach to Bench Hut

Lakeview on the approach to Bench Hut

Toby, giving little love to the hand-hewn table at Fishhook Yurt

Toby, giving little love to the hand-hewn table at Fishhook Yurt

The new Fishhook hut looks beautiful

The new Fishhook hut looks beautiful

ah, the Sawtooth from Fishhook Meadows!

ah, the Sawtooth from Fishhook Meadows!

Getting the wood in at Boulder Yurts

Getting the wood in at Boulder Yurts

Tornak Hut, ready for snow.

Tornak Hut, ready for snow.

Coyote, still an awesome destination for mountain biking

Coyote, still an awesome destination for mountain biking

Buff single track leaving the Coyote Yurts

Buff single track leaving the Coyote Yurts

The final descent back to the valley from Coyote Yurts

The final descent back to the valley from Coyote Yurts

NOW LET IT SNOW!

Jul 212014
 

With an insatiable thirst for single track, beer and good-times, the Men of the North descended upon the Smokey Mountains of Idaho last week. The Coyote Yurts survived the onslaught, but many miles of trail were sacrificed to these brutes form the north country.

Stoked for day 2 ride (24 miles down 5400')

Stoked for day 2 ride (24 miles down 5400′)

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putting the barby to the test

putting the barby to the test

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Bob wondering if its worth getting your name on a table

Bob wondering if its worth getting your name on a table

carve

carve

yehaw!

yehaw!

riding into the front country

riding into the front country

taking a break on the long descent Fox Peak

taking a break on the long descent Fox Peak

Day 3, starting the 4000' descent on Fox Peak

Day 3, starting the 4000′ descent on Fox Peak

nothing like tired legs, a full belly, a campfire fire, and a view

nothing like tired legs, a full belly, a campfire fire, and a view

the pink shuttle day 2

the pink shuttle day 2

Aysha and yucca

Aysha and yucca

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purple mountains

purple mountains

river ride

river ride

hummer home

hummer home

and on it goes...

and on it goes…

Single track the goes to the horizons

Single track that goes to the horizons

the window seat at Coyote

the window seat at Coyote

the steeds corralled for the night

the steeds corralled for the night

The point

The point

starting the 2000' downhill on "Edge of the World"

starting the 2000′ downhill on “Edge of the World”

tasty

tasty

nothing like riding 24 miles and climbing over 4000' to generate an appetite

nothing like riding 24 miles and climbing over 4000′ to generate an appetite

smoking carne asada

smoking carne asada

the Men of the North ready to storm the mountain

the Men of the North ready to storm the mountain

Chris, stoked mid ride

Chris, stoked mid ride

bank turns

bank turns

9pm sunset on the point

9pm sunset on the point

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Aysha tests the yucca

Aysha tests the yucca

and around it goes..

and around it goes..

and goes..

and goes..

and the party gets wild

and the party gets wild

Joe gets his hand at shaking the yucca

Joe gets his hand at shaking the yucca

Shaking the yucca #2

Shaking the yucca #2

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shaking the yucca

shaking the yucca

Boulders and beers

Boulders and beers

nothing like a cold beer after a long ride to bring on a smile

nothing like a cold beer after a long ride to bring on a smile

good morning sunrise at Coyote Yurts

good morning sunrise at Coyote Yurts

Jun 242014
 
Evening light at the fire pit

Evening light at the fire pit

We are just back from celebrating the Summer Solstice on the point at the new Coyote Yurts. After the Beaver Creek wild fire burned the Coyote Yurts last August, its been quite a journey to bring the Coyote Yurts back to life. This past weekend marked the final (planned) stage in this process! Joe, Niels and Aysha went up a couple days early to finish construction of the outdoor areas including benches and stoop on the deck, picnic table, barbeque, new fire pit and dance floor on the point and a bike corral. It all turned out beautifully. Then it was time for friends and family to converge in this special spot to enjoy the longest day of the year. Biking, hiking, dancing, good food and good times!

Finishing the carpentry projects to get the new yurts ready for summer

Finishing the carpentry projects to get the new yurts ready for summer

Sunset on June 20th, readying for the shortest night of the year

Sunset on June 20th, readying for the shortest night of the year

the new "front stoop" makes for a great seat

the new “front stoop” makes for a great seat

Sunset June 20th

Sunset June 20th

hunter...

hunter…

Kids LOVE the yurt experience!

Kids LOVE the yurt experience!

mmm, smores!

mmm, smores!

Neve trying out the new bow

Neve trying out the new bow

Morning coffee on the deck

Morning coffee on the deck

The deck makes for a comfy hang spot any-time of day.

The deck makes for a comfy hang spot any-time of day.

The comfy new benches and a view forever

The comfy new benches and a view forever

Flowers everywhere!

Flowers everywhere!

Cleaning out the trails for the season

Cleaning out the trails for the season

Fox Peak sure is riding nice!

Fox Peak sure is riding nice!

Can't hold back a smile on these trails!

Can’t hold back a smile on these trails!

The newlyweds on the point.

The newlyweds on the point.

Dance party on the point!

Dance party on the point!

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Wow, what a view!

Wow, what a view!

Scoping the riding

Scoping the riding

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up, up...

up, up…

and away!

and away!

The driving approach to the Coyote Yurts

The driving approach to the Coyote Yurts

Jun 082014
 
A unique and beautiful way to start the ride to Bench Hut

A unique and beautiful way to start the ride to Bench Hut

When the snow melts, we start the process of prepping, repairing and improving the huts. This summer season, hutmeisters: Niels and Aysha are riding from hut-hut working on projects. We cut out the downed timber on the Fishhook Trail, so its is clear and smooth now. The following photos are from a recent trip into the Sawtooth with owner/guide/backcountry carpenter: Joe St.Onge. Sure is pretty out there!

The Arrow Leaf in full bloom

The Arrow Leaf in full bloom

Sweet Sawtooth Single Track

Sweet Sawtooth Single Track

One of the rockiest trails around

One of the rockiest trails around

yehaw

yehaw

Taking the corner toward the Fishhook Yurt

Taking the corner toward the Fishhook Yurt

Bike as utility vehicle, Niels riding with the hut repair supply

Bike as utility vehicle, Niels riding with the hut repair supply

Fishhook Creek is raging

Fishhook Creek is raging

ahh, the beautiful Fishhook Hut

ahh, the beautiful Fishhook Hut

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Doesn't get much more buff than this

Doesn’t get much more buff than this

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Jun 022014
 
Mark Weir, Jamie Goldman and Aaron Chase: Stoked!

Mark Weir, Jamie Goldman and Aaron Chase: Stoked!

“Are there rattle snakes here?” asked Jamie Goldman, a pro rider from Oregon I was charged with guiding.
“Never seen one on this side of Democrat Gulch” I said while pointing to the east, “but over there…”

I was pointing toward Lambs Gulch, a local favorite South Valley trail, where the year before an intrepid hiker photographed a rattle snake hibernacula. For those that don’t know, a hibernacula is basically a ball of writhing rattle snakes that congregate together, sometimes by the hundreds, to stay warm during the long winter months. The photograph made the local paper and led to horrific visions for those that frequent these trails. It wasn’t uncommon to see a normally tough mountain guy jump and shriek with visions of the hibernacula when a large cricket fluttered by.

Mark Weir high in the Smokey's Mountains, Idaho

Mark Weir high in the Smokey Mountains, Idaho

All that silly fear was warranted, as I had once ridden over the middle of a basking rattle snake on that very trail, both the snake and I left shaking. But not over here on the new school flow trails recently built to maximize speed and stoke for local riders. While less than a mile away, I had never even seen a snake here nor heard any of the stories that were common on Lambs. Sometimes we fool ourselves to avoid fear.

It was about 2 minutes later, flying down the whoops, banks and rolls of the Centerline trail, when the telltale rattle caused me to veer off into the scrub. My bike went flying and I did my best to windmill my legs and arms to stay upright and avoid the snake I had just ridden over. Jamie, at full speed, just bunny hopped over the fanged reptile with grace and poise. It looked like he had rehearsed this move a hundred times.

Jamie Goldman manual

Jamie Goldman manual

This was the first day of a ten day mountain bike trip I was guiding. This wasn’t our normal bike guiding. We had three top pros, 2 camera men, a fully outfitted shuttle vehicle, a well-stocked yurt, big plans and lots of ice cold beer. It was the cameras and the pros that made the difference.

I have been a mountain guide now for 20 years. My focus has been on climbing and descending mountains, but typically on skis. For much of my adult life I have been too focused on these snowy environs to spend much time on bikes. Typically I would migrate to different hemispheres and higher altitudes/latitudes as soon as the snow began to melt. That all changed when my wife and I moved to Hailey to work as backcountry ski guides 13 years ago. The summers were so nice: flowers, clear running streams, lots of sunshine and miles upon miles of epic single track leading throughout the rugged mountains of Central Idaho. The biking I had done before was not the same. Mostly scrappy affairs involving skidding down too steep trails and doing my best to avoid getting injured. But here in Idaho it was different. The trails were buff. They climbed, curved and descended through enchanted landscapes that went on as far as you could. I was mesmerized by the flow and the potential. Suddenly, I became aware of the similarities between backcountry skiing and mountain biking and the fire they both stoked. I actually began to look forward to the non-snow months.

Mark Weir carving

Mark Weir carving

Now here I was, an unlikely bike guide. With all the mountain guiding I have done, I generally feel pretty comfortable taking people into harsh and consequential environments for fun. But typically my skill and experience outweighs that of my guests. I was not even close on this trip. We had Mark Weir, a long time racer and cross-country animal; Aaron Chase, the bike-handling wizard; and Jamie Goldman, big air phenomenon. We also had a duffel bag full of 50+ GoPro cameras and two dedicated pro photographers (we called them the GoProographers) and a mission to capture “the goods.” While my riding will never equal theirs, I did have a secret weapon. My advantage was an intimate knowledge of these mountains, trails and a sweet Yurt in the middle of it all.

Backcountry bike rack at the old Coyote Yurts

Backcountry bike rack at the old Coyote Yurts

32 years ago, Joe Leonard built the first dedicated backcountry ski yurt in the Sawtooth Mountains. Yurts have been used for millennia by herders on the steppes of Central Asia, but it wasn’t until Joe built one in the Sawtooth, that they were used to house thrill-seeking backcountry skiers. And the idea spread. A couple of years later, Bob Jonas and Sun Valley Trekking took over Joe Leonard’s yurts and built 5 more, strategically located to take advantage of the best the Idaho backcountry has to offer. But that ‘best’ was focused on powder skiing. Luckily, one of those ski yurts also happened to be at one of the premier trail junctions in the Idaho backcountry. The Coyote Yurt sits on a promontory ridge at 8700’ in the headwaters of the East Fork of Baker Creek. It is here, on the flanks of Fox Peak that some of Idaho’s most storied mountain bike trails meet — Easley Gulch, Oregon Gulch, Fox Peak, Warm Springs Ridge, Alden Gulch, Rooks Creek, and Osberg Ridge all make their high points here. But these aren’t the typical town rides, these trails are out there and most that have ridden them require a fair bit of energy, time and skill to do so. When folks do put in the time and energy, these trails afford the best of what Idaho backcountry riding has to offer. And there is a cool backcountry yurt for a base camp right there. Just last year, the Beaver Creek wild fire consumed the Coyote Yurts in its flaming hunger. The loss of this amazing backcountry yurt was profound and we quickly mobilized to rebuild. The result of the effort is one of the most aesthetic backcountry yurts ever, ready to stoke bikers.

The New Coyote Yurts

The New Coyote Yurts

Leaving the Yurt on the Osberg Ridge Trail with endless Idaho trails...

Leaving the Yurt on the Osberg Ridge Trail with endless Idaho trails…

Since first riding my bike from the Coyote Yurt on these trails 13 years ago, I knew this was very special. Until recently, wolf and mountain lion tracks were more common than other bike tracks on the headwater trails. That has changed, and most locals and many visiting bikers are discovering this zone. The Forest Service recently retrofitted one of the backbone trails (Warm Springs Ridge, now known as the Osberg Ridge Trail) to provide 12 miles of high, remote single track bliss and a connector to a myriad of other trails. There is talk of building even more trails in this area in the future.
Ultimately, this trip was an opportunity to share what I consider to be among the best riding in the world with several very experienced and discerning riders. I was eager to see their reaction as we linked close to 200 miles of single track from our yurt home. The pure stoke we shared day after day of riding was a tremendously gratifying experience. But, upon reflection, the most remarkable thing about our adventure was the paradigm shift in my own perspective on biking. To watch these guys visualize and then ride a section of single track was truly awesome. And while these trails are familiar to me, the style that each would ride opened my eyes to how a bike can be ridden. Full commitment and ultimate skill were paired with a machine of engineered perfection in a land of splendor. Like a ski, the bike can be an instrument of art, linking landscapes in a fluid and poetic manner. I have witnessed what can be done, and now I have the inspiration to try to actualize it, if I can just avoid the snakes.

Taking the long way to Coyote

Taking the long way to Coyote

Full commitment sometimes means this...

Full commitment sometimes means this…

Feb 262014
 

Last month we ran the 1st ever backcountry snow-bike hut trip to Tornak Hut. The low early season snow left many us searching for the powder stashes and scraping by, cracking the occasional joke about running snow bike trips instead of ski trips. That’s when serendipity hit and an old friend and one time guide with SVT suggested a fat bike hut trip for an upcoming article he was writing for the New York Times. Why not? We kept the plan was loose, made sure the participants were strong and unfortunately waited 3 days too long, biking in after 8″ of fresh Idaho powder fell. The biking conditions were perfect before the new snow, but good times were had even if the uphill biking was a bit tough with the fresh powder. This trip showed us that Fat Bike trips to the huts is both possible and FUN. So for those of you more inclined to pedal than skin: this is another great way to have an adventure in the Idaho backcountry!

You can check out the NYT article here:

Ahh, spinning on the way to Tornak

Ahh, spinning on the way to Tornak

Taking a break and releasing some tire pressure for the deep snow

Taking a break and releasing some tire pressure for the deep snow

Yep, its deep off the trail

Yep, its deep off the trail

Some spots were a bit soft, but spirits were not!

Some spots were a bit soft, but spirits were not!

The final downhill to Tornak Hut

The final downhill to Tornak Hut

Unloading gear, from bike to hut

Unloading gear, from bike to hut

the cozy hut life

the cozy hut life

and cold beer was earned

and cold beer was earned

flowing the 9 mile down hill

flowing the 9 mile down hill

cruising

cruising

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Aug 082013
 

It’s late summer and the legs are strong and the high mountain single track beckons! Here are some pictures from the past week including riding around Redfish Lake, with a visit to the Bench and Fishhook Huts, and a ride along the new Osberg Ridge trail that takes one right to the door of Coyote and Tornak Huts!

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MTB redfish-Osberg

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Jun 142013
 

The St.Onge family and SVT new recruit, Trudy, are just back from setting up the Coyote Yurts for the summer. Beautiful wildflowers abound, the trails are in great shape and the yurts are looking fantastic!

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