Dec 302017
 
Dec 152017
 

Morning beacon check on the way out of Coyote en route to Tornak Hut

We are just returning from a hut to hut tour between Coyote Yurts and the Tornak Hut.  While the valley approaches are relatively thin snow, it is quite supportable and allows for quick and easy skinning.  Once above 8500′, the snowpack gets deeper and we were finding good to very good boot-top powder skiing on cold aspects (East-North-Northwest) and even skied a run of corn on the south bowl of Fox Peak.  Yep, corn in December!  The Thanksgiving rains, early December powder and the past 2 weeks of high pressure (with inverted temperatures) have made for some of the most unique early December ski conditions we have seen.  The snowpack and ski conditions resemble spring-just thinner.  It’s not really a bad thing, although we would welcome a 3 foot storm of cold smoke!  Skinning is easy, the pack is supportable and the stability is generally good.  We are seeing snow depths of around 1 meter above 8500′ in this zone (on cold slopes) and around 50-60cm of supportable melt/freeze (corn!?) on warmer aspects.  Both Coyote and Tornak Huts are looking great and awaiting more skiers to enjoy their cozy confines.  The new sauna at Tornak Hut is fantastic!  Laying on the top Sauna bench while gazing out the window and catching the alpinglow  lighting up the Boulder Mountains is quite a way to top off a ski day.  Come on Up!

Shadows in the burn

Spooning them nicely

It’s a powder skiing palyground out here!

Ridge running

arcing through fields of untracked pow

Laying into smooth powder

Backcountry Art

Climbing toward the mighty Tornak Peak

Climbing the “American Direct” on the mighty Tornak Peak

Izzy, stoked after a mixed ascent

The team atop the mighty Tornak Peak

Enjoying a hot lunch at Tornak Hut

Wolverine tracks atop Fox Peak

The Pioneers dominate the view south

Jess, conducting some baseline stability tests

Sampling the East powder on Fox Peak

The Grouse are numerous in this area

Ski track, and the Coyote Yurt visible on the point

ah, the burn creates some striking textures

Evening light on the tour back to Coyote Yurt

Sunrise at Coyote Yurts

Morning light at Coyote

Where to next? Let the signs point the way!

Practice, practice, practice is the only way to become truly proficient with avalanche rescue

Tracks in the Burn

Morning powder off the point of Coyote

Who says Tele is dead? Miles sure doesn’t think so!

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

Dec 312016
 
Jul 302016
 
Solid quartzite and an awesome backdrop!

Solid quartzite and an awesome backdrop!

When the forecast called for temps to rise into the 90’s in the valley, SVT guides Joe St.Onge and Patrick Graham decided to go high. For years, we have been looking at the north wall on Cobb Peak(11,644′) above the Pioneer Yurt and wondering if the rock was good. The north face of Cobb is a massive rock wall, rising 1000-1800′ from the alpine basin and comprised of ancient quartzite rock. Quartzite is an interesting and beautiful rock type, created when sandstone is metamorphosed under intense pressure and heat. Extremely dense and compact, the quartzite on Cobb does not give continuous crack features for a climber to follow. Instead, there are varied slabs, blocks, corners and aretes that can be linked together with generally good to very good rock. 5 years ago, Patrick and Joe climbed the direct North Face in alpine conditions, climbing neve, rock and water ice to the summit (the Solstice Line) and found good rock and a spectacular setting, creating an desire to venture on a rock route. This 1100′ climb generally followed slabs and corners into a short chimney (5.8) and then onto the skyline ridge. The “Buccaneers Route” (5.8 III) had a couple 5.8 moves but was generally in the mid 5th class range. Fun stuff!

The Pioneer Yurt makes a perfect base-camp for climbing on the peaks above

The Pioneer Yurt makes a perfect base-camp for climbing on the peaks above (Cobb peak on the right)

What a setting!

What a setting!

Pato on the evening ride into the yurt

Pato on the evening ride into the yurt

Hiking above the yurt as the 1st rays of morning sun hit the high peaks

Hiking above the yurt as the 1st rays of morning sun hit the high peaks

With the baby on the way, Pato stayed "in touch"

With the baby on the way, Pato stayed “in touch”

Approaching the scree field at the base of the north wall on Cobb

Approaching the scree field at the base of the north wall on Cobb

A closer inspection revealed some nice looking rock

A closer inspection revealed some nice looking rock

Pato heading up on the lower pitches

Pato heading up on the lower pitches

Starting to get some air under our feet

Starting to get some air under our feet

Finding beautiful features midway up the wall

Finding beautiful features midway up the wall

Joe climbing into the morning light

Joe climbing into the morning light

The view from a belay ledge 400' up

The view from a belay ledge 400′ up

Lots of options to venture out onto steep jugs

Lots of options to venture out onto steep jugs

The final 400' follows a beautiful and airy ridge

The final 400′ follows a beautiful and airy ridge

Making efficient transitions with over 1000' of climbing

Making efficient transitions with over 1000′ of climbing

The upper ridge allows for some fun blocky climbing

The upper ridge allows for some fun blocky climbing

Great exposure high on the upper ridge

Great exposure high on the upper ridge

The Buccaneers Route basically follows the skyline (1st 5 pitches not visible)

The Buccaneers Route basically follows the skyline (1st 5 pitches not visible)

The descent is a walk off on the west ridge

The descent is a walk off on the west ridge

Getting some fun flow on the ripping downhill ride back to the trailhead

Getting some fun flow on the ripping downhill ride back to the trailhead

Back in the meadows after the climb (on the ridge)

Back in the meadows after the climb (on the ridge)

The climb roughly follows the red line (the first 5 pitches) with the upper 4 pitches and 4th class ridge not visible.

The “Buccaneers Route” roughly follows the red line (the first 5 pitches) with the upper 4 pitches on an exposed 4-5th class ridge not visible.

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

Feb 282016
 
Climbing into the alpine above the Pioneer yurt is always inspiring

Climbing into the alpine above the Pioneer yurt is always inspiring

SVT guide, Joe St.Onge and apprentice Chris Cullaz, led a group of local ladies into the Pioneer Yurt this week. Perfect powder conditions, big peaks and the sublime beauty of the Pioneers worked its magic. What a place we call home!

Approaching the Pioneer Yurt on day 1 with beautiful weather

Approaching the Pioneer Yurt on day 1 with beautiful weather

Climbing the Peanut above the yurt with amazing backdrop

Climbing the Peanut above the yurt with amazing backdrop

We call this zone "Little Alaska"

We call this zone “Little Alaska”

Perfect powder above the yurt

Perfect powder above the yurt

Skiers and snowboarders playing happily together

Skiers and snowboarders playing happily together

#puremountainstoke

#puremountainstoke

The final turns back to the yurt with the setting sun

The final turns back to the yurt with the setting sun

good to the last drop

good to the last drop

schussing into cocktails, appetizers and a nice sauna after plentiful powder

schussing into cocktails, appetizers and a nice sauna after plentiful powder

a little light reading after a sauna

a little light reading after a sauna

sometimes things can get a bit...... at the yurt

sometimes things can get a bit…… at the yurt

Hyndman Peak, the tallest of the Pioneers commands the view above the yurt

Hyndman Peak, the tallest of the Pioneers commands the view above the yurt

The gals looking back toward Sun Valley and noticing how small Baldy looks

The gals looking back toward Sun Valley and noticing how small Baldy looks

The final steps toward the col du Hyndman

The final steps toward the col du Hyndman

Carving turns beneath the big peaks

Carving turns beneath the big peaks

Powder, friends and a beautiful setting

Powder, friends and a beautiful setting

It's getting hot...

It’s getting hot…

The final turns end a prefect 2 days in the Pioneers

The final turns end a prefect 2 days in the Pioneers

Feb 122016
 
It's hard not to smile when carving settled powder on the north burns

It’s hard not to smile when carving settled powder on the north burns

SVT Guides, Chris Marshall and Joe St.Onge, are just back from a quick 2 day trip into the Coyote Yurts with a fun group of local skiers.  Sunny skies, warm temps, settled powder and some of the first corn turns of the season were enjoyed by all.  What a place to call home!

What a day to climb a high ridge on the way to Coyote

What a day to climb a high ridge on the way to Coyote

Carving the first corn turns of the season

Carving the first corn turns of the season

Lunch break on the way to the yurts

Lunch break on the way to the yurts

Arriving at the Coyote yurts after a great day of skiing

Arriving at the Coyote yurts after a great day of skiing

Nothing like good friends, good meat and great wine at a yurt high on secluded ridge

Nothing like good friends, good meat and great wine at a yurt high on secluded ridge

Soft evening light at the Coyote yurts

Soft evening light at the Coyote yurts

From hot to cold: the sauna dash

From hot to cold: the sauna dash

From cold to hot, the dash gets faster!

From cold to hot, the dash gets faster!

 

Alpin glow mantra

Alpin glow mantra

IMG_0228

The team!

The team!

Burn beauty

Burn beauty

Dropping into the burn

Dropping into the burn

Climbing above the yurts on the second morning to ski the burn

Climbing above the yurts on the second morning to ski the burn

It can be a world of black and white contrast when skiing the burns

It can be a world of black and white contrast when skiing the burns

and final tow back home...

and final tow back home…

Jan 022016
 
oh yeah!

oh yeah!

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!

Cold smoke dropping in front of Coyote Yurts

Cold smoke dropping in front of Coyote Yurts

more from the front door of Coyote Yurts

more from the front door of Coyote Yurts

Hil, carving down the south bowls heading home

Hil, carving down the south bowls heading home

ahh, big arcs in the powder

ahh, big arcs in the powder

The man and the legend, Mike

The man and the legend, Mike

Ben, liking the new Coombacks

Ben, liking the new Coombacks

Geoff, arcing the old Sidestash

Geoff, arcing the old Sidestash

Crispy, splitting the aspens

Crispy, splitting the aspens

Cold morning start from the yurts

Cold morning start from the yurts

Skiing off the Burn Unit

Skiing off the Burn Unit

tree ski

tree ski

Good morning from the Coyote Yurts!

Good morning from the Coyote Yurts!

Climbing back to the yurts after a morning lap

Climbing back to the yurts after a morning lap

Climbing back to summit of Little Round Top

Climbing back to summit of Little Round Top

The view from the yurts

The view from the yurts

pre-dawn view of the Coyote Yurts, coffee is ready and powder is waiting.

pre-dawn view of the Coyote Yurts, coffee is ready and powder is waiting.

Setting moon and sunrise

Setting moon and sunrise

The team, preparing to drop one last line down to the yurts before sunset

The team, preparing to drop one last line down to the yurts before sunset

Arriving at the yurts right before dark after 5000' of pure powder

Arriving at the yurts right before dark after 5000′ of pure powder

A warm yurt, good friends, yummy food and plenty of powder skiing make for a perfect evening in the backcountry

A warm yurt, good friends, yummy food and plenty of powder skiing make for a perfect evening in the backcountry

Hil, setting moon and silky powder skiing out the door from the yurts

Hil, setting moon and silky powder skiing out the door from the yurts

Nov 082015
 
ULLR!!!

ULLR!!!

At the start of every winter season we celebrate the coming of winter with a BIG fire.  We honor the change of the season and the coming days of arcing down mountains on skis.  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.

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!

Friends, families, sleds, fire and FUN

Friends, families, sleds, fire and FUN

November 1st and the start of the storm, perhaps the last mountain ride of the year...

November 1st and the start of the storm, perhaps the last mountain ride of the year…

Not bad for November 4th

3 days later on November 4th

Ahh, back on skis

Ahh, back on skis.  Francie breaks trail with a smile.

Fun in the snow with sleds and snow-skates

Fun in the snow with sleds and snow-skates at the Boulder Yurts

The Ullr Fire burning bright

The Ullr Fire burning bright

Francie, dropping in to a powder field

Francie, dropping in to a powder field, November 4th, 2015

Joe, enjoying some early season powder

Joe, enjoying some early season powder

We LOVE snow!

We LOVE snow!

Joe, stoked to be back on skis

Joe, stoked to be back on skis