There’s a stillness to the mountain air, a quiet at times which is almost startling. It’s the kind of quiet where the only thing breaking the hush is the mild tinnitus acquired from loud concerts, late nights and a life spent in earbuds. Now more than ever that audible void is serenity and safety, the chance to breathe deeply, filling your lungs with cool air instead of pestilence and anxiety.
It’s tranquility you won’t find on a typical ski vacation, not while risking infection to dine on an overpriced gamey entrée alongside the unmasked masses. Don’t look for it in the mess resort skiing’s become, what with mandatory online pass reservations and clandestine skier limits. Finding it means venturing beyond the frenetic restaurants, hotels, resorts and shops to somewhere more remote.
I’m talking about comfortably warm, rustic lodging for the medium-core outdoor enthusiast. You know, something in between the indulgent comforts of a posh slopeside Airbnb and the excruciating type two fun of winter camping. Lodging that requires some self-reliance but comes with outrageously convenient access to the outdoor activities that drive you. These three getaways are an escape. Exit chaos and enjoy.
Whether you’re aiming for Olympic glories like Jessie Diggins and Utah legend Kikkan Randall or are more of a utilitarian cross-country skier akin to a seventeenth-century Sami hunter, the Lily Lake Trail System in the Uinta Mountains has something for everyone. With over 20 kilometers of groomed XC skiing trails perfect for both classic and skate skiing and another 8 kilometers of un-groomed trails winding through the mountains on the northern slope of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, you’ll run out of energy long before you run out of ski terrain.
Cross Country Ski at the Bear River Yurts
The Bear River Outdoor Recreation Alliance (BRORA) grooms the trails on a weekly basis and after large storms, and they also manage a system of yurts that lets you ski the trails right from your doorstep. Bunks, cooking utensils and propane stoves in the six yurts provide everything you need to stay warm and well-fed after a day spent working your lungs and legs. Reservations can be made by calling the Evanston Recreation Center. Yurts are $75 per night and require a $20 BRORA membership. 307-789-1770, brorayurts.org
Mountain Bike at Gooseberry Mesa
Composed of surrealistic sandstone shapes in Southern Utah’s red rock country, Gooseberry Mesa is home to famously technical and unique mountain bike trails. Even the desert gets chilly at night this time of year, which makes the Gooseberry Mesa Yurts your perfect hideout. Owner Kenny Jones, who coaches local rippers for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association’s mountain bike team, knows a thing or two about riding through the unique, iconic terrain atop Gooseberry Mesa, which is why he’s spent the past decade building and maintaining the yurts adjacent to the trails.
The yurts aren’t bespoke glamping shelters, and they aren’t ideal as a basecamp to explore nearby Zion National Park—the unforgivingly rugged road to the top of the mesa isn’t exactly a cakewalk, especially for low-clearance vehicles—but they’re the perfect temporary
Gooseberry Mesa home for enjoying a little sun during an off season bike trip. The four structures dot the mesa’s edge with incredible views of the surrounding landscapes.
Reservations can be requested online and are available starting at $125 per yurt, which can fit between four and six adults depending on how cozy your group wants to get. 801-318-6280, gooseberryyurts.com
Snowshoe and Backcountry Ski at The Castle Peak Yurt
Tucked atop a knob at 9,600 feet in the Uinta Mountains, the Castle Peak Yurt isn’t exactly a piece of cake to get to, but it’s well worth the effort. The yurt itself is unremarkable, just another iteration of the Gooseberry Mesa Yurts traditional temporary Mongolian shelter with a few amenities like a wood stove, some bunk beds and a gas stove, but its remote location makes it the perfect basecamp for high alpine adventure.
White Pine Touring manages the yurt from 30 miles away in Park City, offering both guided and unguided trips depending on your comfort in winter camping and experience in avalanche terrain. Those who want to go it alone can reserve the yurt starting at $175 per
night for snowshoeing and backcountry skiing and snowboarding. Those who prefer a more inclusive experience can sign up for a guided trip with White Pine’s partners, Inspired Summit Adventures, who will not only help you safely find the best snow around but will also give you a snowmobile bump for the six miles trip to the yurt and cater your meals. Call White Pine Touring for reservations. 435-649-8710, whitepinetouring.com
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