Dec 102017
 

Steep Powder in the Bench Lakes Basin

We are just returning from a 4 hut tour on the annual Apprentice Orientation. Every year, we spend the first 2 weeks of December skiing from hut to hut with the goal of opening each hut for the winter season and conducting training with the new apprentice guides. Here’s a report for what we are finding out there:

Sawtooth: We began the orientation in the Sawtooth where we skied from the Fishhook Yurt to the Bench Hut. The approach to both Fishhook and Bench are characterized by relatively thin but very supportive snow pack in the lower elevations allowing for fairly easy skinning. At Bench Hut, we were seeing 95cm snow pack that rapidly deepened to 140cm in the Bench Lakes Basin above. While we were there 30cm of snow fell and we found excellent powder skiing and good stability.

Boulder Yurt: The approach track is in and provides easy skiing through the meadows on the way in. It’s still a bit thin in the bowls above the yurt, but careful route-finding can reward skiers with powder turns.

Pioneer Yurt: As of today, you can drive to the summer trailhead and ski all the way to the yurt. The rain crust from a couple weeks ago as made for an extremely supportive snow pack that resembles a thin spring snow pack more than an early December snow pack. Once at Yurt level (8700′) the coverage is actually pretty good for this time of year (60-100cm depending on location). We generally found widespread wind affect on the surface. Once we get a resurfacing with the next snowfall, we hope to find some excellent conditions on a supportive base.

Coyote and Tornak: We are heading up there next and will report back with conditions later in the week.

We hope you are enjoying the early season and getting out with your friends. All the huts are looking great and we are excited for the awesome season ahead!

Snowboards always seem to get more faceshots!

All smiles after the first powder shot in the Sawtooth

ah, that wonderful feeling of laying down arcs in the dry powder!

Skinning above the Bench Hut on a cold December morning

Cranking turns through the fresh on the Triangle

The Apprentice team at Fishhook Yurt

Arriving at Bench Hut to open her up for the season

4th lake above Bench hut

Climbing to Yo Yo Ma

Welcome to the Sawtooth!

Climbing toward Dave Dog Peak with the Monolith Basin in the background

a solid strike at the Boulder Yurt

Fun and games at the Pioneer Yurt

Apres ski in a cozy Pioneer Yurt

Climbing to the moon

Felt like spring-time up in the Pioneers over the past couple of days

Coverage in the Pios

What a place!

Julie, stoked to discover the Pioneers

Skiing the beautiful meadows on the way to the Boulder Yurt

Oct 122017
 
Apr 112016
 
Getting ready to open it up

Getting ready to open it up

It’s a tradition, a physical ordeal and a right of passage. We call it the “woodcut” but it is much more than just a wood-cut. Every spring, we take advantage of the solid snow pack to fell trees and skid/carry them over the snow to the huts in preparation for the following winter. Like a squirrel, collecting nuts for the winter ahead, we cache the life giving fuel for the Bench and Fishhook Huts, deep in the Sawtooth. While there is a very practical purpose to what we are doing (prepping firewood for ski huts) at heart we are skiers and the woodcut typically occurs when the ski conditions are prime. So we work especially hard felling, bucking, hauling and stacking to finish the job, so we can get to the skiing. This year we accomplished all the objectives, putting up over 6 cord of wood at each hut and skiing many big, steep and authentic lines.

Thanks to the stellar SVT crew: Chris Marshall, Andrew Kieffer, Niels Meyer, Chris Cullaz, Jess Simon, Alex Gemme, Everett Coba, and the veteran of many woodcuts: Joe St.Onge

Over 6 cords, felled, carried, bucked and stacked at the Bench Hut. now its time to go ski!

Over 6 cords, felled, carried, bucked and stacked at the Bench Hut. now its time to go ski!

The Sawtooth in all their spring glory

The Sawtooth in all their spring glory

Kiefer psyched for a day of steep couloir skiing above Bench Hut

Kieffer psyched for a day of steep couloir skiing above Bench Hut

heading into the upper basins

heading into the upper basins

Jess, working his way up the lower slopes of the Hunk

Jess, working his way up the lower slopes of the Hunk

Climbing mid way on the Hunk, a classic spring steep corn descent above Bench hut

Climbing mid way on the Hunk, a classic spring steep corn descent above Bench hut

Cranking warm-up turns before the steeps on the Hunk

Cranking warm-up turns before the steeps on the Hunk

Jess, working his way through the surface sluffs on the Hunk

Jess, working his way through the surface sluffs on the Hunk

The lower rolls of the hunk are pure beauty

The lower rolls of the hunk are pure beauty

Loving the final roll on the Hunk

Loving the final roll on the Hunk

Yahoo!

Yahoo!

Heading toward the Heyburner

Heading toward the Heyburner

Lunch break in the 5th lake basin

Lunch break in the 5th lake basin

Chris, cranking turns on the upper north couloir of Heyburn

Chris, cranking turns on the upper north couloir of Heyburn

Snowboard carving out of the Orbit Couloir

Snowboard carving out of the Orbit Couloir

Everett climbing to the darkside on the Bat Cave

Everett climbing to the darkside on the Bat Cave

Jess working his way toward the light in the Bat Cave

Jess working his way toward the light in the Bat Cave

Chris, climbing out of the cave and into the light

Chris, climbing out of the cave and into the light

Climbing out of the Bat Cave

Climbing out of the Bat Cave

Alex, loving the steep exit of the Bat Cave

Alex, loving the steep exit of the Bat Cave

Alex riding toward the light

Alex riding toward the light

Crouching tiger

Crouching tiger

Dawn Patrol out of the Fishhook yurt

Dawn Patrol out of the Fishhook yurt

Our days objective: the Sickle Couloir. One of the many splitter couloirs in the Sawtooth

Our days objective: the Sickle Couloir. One of the many splitter couloirs in the Sawtooth

Everett and Chris loving the steep climb

Everett and Chris loving the steep climb

nearing the top of the Sickle

nearing the top of the Sickle

Chris, opening his wings while making a jump turn on the 50+ degree couloir

Chris, opening his wings while making a jump turn on the 50+ degree couloir

Using an ice axe for security on the firm entrance

Using an ice axe for security on the firm entrance

Everett laying them down mid couloir

Everett laying them down mid couloir

stoked after a stellar couloir

stoked after a stellar couloir

May 242015
 
What a beautiful place to hike!

What a beautiful place to hike!

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…

The girls starting out on the 2 mile hike into the Fishhook Yurt

The girls starting out on the 2 mile hike into the Fishhook Yurt

Neve, cruising

Neve, cruising

Neve, boulder break

Neve, boulder break

Riding in style

Riding in style

Creek-side trail break

Creek-side trail break

Trail break

Meadow trail break (strategic and fun stops are key while hiking with young kids!)

Boulder break #2

Boulder break #2

Crossing the Fishhook Creek can be interesting

Crossing the Fishhook Creek can be interesting

The girls, stoked after finding a Sandhill Crane in the meadow

The girls, stoked after finding a Sandhill Crane in the meadow

Neve, testing the waters...

Neve, testing the waters…

mmm.

mmm.

Ahhh, the Fishhook Hot Tub sure is sweet!

Ahhh, the Fishhook Hot Tub sure is sweet!

Nothing like a hot tub on coll and rainy evening!

Nothing like a hot tub on cold and rainy evening!

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

Smores!!

Smores!!

Silly time!

Silly time!

All packed up and ready to head back to the village

The Team

Francie, stepping carefully...

Francie, stepping carefully…

Dec 082014
 

James, floating by an ancient White Bark Pine

We are just returning from the Sawtooth Huts: Bench and Fishhook where we were conducting the annual intern/apprentice training and orientation as well as opening the huts for the season.  We found excellent early season coverage and snow depths in the Sawtooth, ranging form 50+cm in the valley bottom to over 190cm in the alpine.  The snowpack itself is relatively dense providing a great early season base for both skiing and stability.  Both the Sawtooth Huts are in excellent condition heading into the season and the skiing is great (see pics).  Bench is booked pretty solid starting around the Christmas holiday, but there are still  many free nights available in December and the skiing is on.  So if you want to experience the awesome ski terrain and cozy accommodations at Bench, now is the time to sneak in before it is too late!

190cm at 8800-top of Surprise!

190cm at 88OO’-top of Surprise!

Winter beauty on the way to Fishhook Yurt

Winter beauty on the way to Fishhook Yurt

Fishhook Huts look great and are ready for your enjoyment

Fishhook Huts look great and are ready for your enjoyment

Heyburn looms above the approach to Bench Hut

Heyburn looms above the approach to Bench Hut

Dumping above Bench Hut

Dumping above Bench Hut

Love it when it snows!

Love it when it snows!

The crew above the Gun Barrel

The crew above the Gun Barrel

mmmm.....

mmmm…..

New intern, James, testing the powder above 3rd lake

New intern, James, testing the powder above 3rd lake

Returning apprentice, Alisa, stoked to be back in the Sawtooth

Returning apprentice, Alisa, stoked to be back in the Sawtooth

Coverage into the alpine is good, on the way to Yo Yo Ma

Coverage into the alpine is good, on the way to Yo Yo Ma

A goat in his home

A goat in his home

Returning apprentice, Niels, stoked to be high in the Sawtooth

Returning apprentice, Niels, stoked to be high in the Sawtooth

New intern James, discovering the beauty of his new office.

New intern James, discovering the beauty of his new office.

Alisa squeezing the waning light out of the day.

Alisa squeezing the waning light out of the day.

hard to beat...

hard to beat…

Full moon rising above the Bench Hut

Full moon rising above the Bench Hut

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!

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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Apr 182014
 

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We are just back from the annual Sawtooth Woodcuts: 4 days of cutting wood and skiing couloirs. Hard labor and Fun Stuff.

Heading out for a day of skiing couloirs from Fishhook

Heading out for a day of skiing couloirs from Fishhook

the Sickle above Fishhook Yurt

the Sickle above Fishhook Yurt

The Shovel Couloir

The Shovel Couloir

climbing an unnamed couloir

climbing an unnamed couloir

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Still finding dry snow of steep, sheltered upper elevation norths

Still finding dry snow of steep, sheltered upper elevation norths

Toby looking good

Toby looking good

Niels psyched for the Drop

Niels psyched for the Drop

The team

The team

Always great to be out with Irie

Always great to be out with Irie

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stoked intern

stoked intern

Chris leading the way up the Shovel couloir

Chris leading the way up the Shovel couloir

Alisa in the steeps

Alisa in the steeps

getting ready for the next drop

getting ready for the next drop

Trudy

Trudy

Nothing like the granite hallways of the sawtooth

Nothing like the granite hallways of the sawtooth

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Hope turn

Hope turn

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ah, a cold beer and popcorn after a great day of skiing

ah, a cold beer and popcorn after a great day of skiing

making the approach to Bench hut

making the approach to Bench hut

great effort by a tough team

great effort by a tough team

heading home

heading home

Dec 062013
 

We are just back from the Sawtooth where SVT guides: Joe, Pato, Chris, Ed, Toby and new Interns: Trudy, Alisa and Niels braved the extreme cold temps (-22f) and fresh powder to prep the huts for the winter season. We found 16+” of new storm snow and close to 3′ of total snow at Bench Hut and some great (if cold) ski conditions. The pictures below should give you a good idea for what it is like out there right now. The ski trails are in and the powder awaits you! Give us a call if you want to get out and enjoy this beautiful early December.

The crew, getting the huts ready under -22f temps

The crew, getting the Fishhook Hut ready under -22f temps

Heading into the Teeth!

Heading into the Teeth!

Pato hard at work cutting over 30 trees that blocked the trail

Pato hard at work cutting over 30 trees that blocked the trail

Ahh, the cozy new Fishhook Hut at -22f

Ahh, the cozy new Fishhook Hut at -22f

Warm and cozy, the 1st winter night in the new hut

Warm and cozy, the 1st winter night in the new hut

My new favorite bunk in the mountains!

My new favorite bunk in the mountains!

The trees were popping with the cold temps

The trees were popping with the cold temps

As beautiful as ever

As beautiful as ever

Touring through the old growth

Touring through the old growth

Approaching Bench Hut

Approaching Bench Hut

Redfish Lake still ice free...

Redfish Lake still ice free…

Toby doing what an intern does.

Toby doing what an intern does.

Action

Action

Ski time

Ski time

Lots of fresh snow!

Lots of fresh snow!

Ed laying into the powder

Ed laying into the powder

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Chris, styling

Chris, styling

Cold Smoke

Cold Smoke

Toby hard at work

Toby hard at work

Alisa testing Idaho powder

Alisa testing Idaho powder

Pato, treetop flying

Pato, treetop flying

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Sep 062013
 

Ahhh, the new hut at Fishhook is closing in on completion. We are just returning from a few days in the Sawtooth, dodging thunder and lightning storms while working to complete the latest addition to backcountry lodging deep in the beautiful mountains of Central Idaho. Every piece of wood in the new hut (except the door) came from within a 100 yards of the site. Chainsaw carpentry at work. The new hut is a wall tent design, similar to the Bench Hut but 1/2 the size. This hut creates a spacious but cozy layout for gathering a large group to cook, eat and enjoy the views from the 20′ long window gazing up at the highest peaks in the Sawtooth. We kept the old yurt, changing the orientation, giving it some much needed love and turning it into a cozy sleeping hut. We look forward to many a stoked skier gliding into these huts in the coming season!

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