Williams Peak Hut
Ski trips by their very nature are varied. There are the luxe resort options with their ski-in, ski-out hotels and condos, fine dining and predominantly groomed trails that attract affluent out-of-towners. There are the lesser known mountains where you are more likely to find locals eating their bagged lunches on chairlifts rather than scouring on-mountain dining options for phở and venison chili. There are family ski trips and friends’ ski trips, ski trips that break the bank and ski trips that require minimal effort beyond driving to the local hill and pulling out your season pass. And then there’s backcountry skiing in the Sawtooth Range of central Idaho.
When a friend mentioned her desire to go on a backcountry hut trip in the Sawtooths for her bachelorette and asked me if I might be interested in attending, I jumped at the opportunity. Three days and two nights of fully guided ski touring in the pristine, snowy, Sawtooth wilderness with some hardcore, hilarious women? Sign me up. All that was required of me was that I fly to Boise, Idaho with my ski gear in tow and make my way to Stanley (Stanley, Idaho is a 4-hour drive from Boise, or alternatively a 90-minute drive from Sun Valley).
Skinning up to Williams Peak Hut, Day 1
Exploring the Sawtooth backcountry, Day 2
We used Sawtooth Mountain Guides, based out of Stanley, a phenomenally run local guide service that specializes in climbing, skiing and hiking trips in the Sawtooths. Whether you’re interested in a half-day jaunt or a multi-day adventure such as ours, this American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Accredited Mountain Guide Service—the only one in Idaho—is the way to go. Let me recount the reasons why:
First, Sawtooth Mountain Guides hauled in our food and stocked the huts with sleeping bags, which allowed us the rare luxury of carrying a light pack into the backcountry on a multi-night ski trip. Second, they provided avalanche gear (beacon, probe and shovel), reminded us how to use it, and sent us off with two charming, masculine, expert guides (this was a bachelorette, after all). Third, these charming, masculine, expert guides whipped up feasts every night, laid out lunches for us to bring as we skied, and indulged in the occasional beer after our ski boots came off and our true smelly, sweaty selves were unveiled. Although a quad-busting, backcountry ski trip where you sleep on bunk beds and use an open-air privy for a bathroom might seem innately antithetical to luxury, believe me when I tell you we were living in style.
Our destination: the Williams Peak Hut. Based at 8,000 ft on the flanks of Williams Peak in the northern Sawtooth Range, the Williams Peak Hut offers some of the best hut-accessed, backcountry ski terrain anywhere in the lower 48. Wildly popular for its variety of terrain, the hut provides backdoor access to broad glades, steep chutes and everything in between. The Williams Peak Hut is fully stocked with warm woodstoves, kitchen and cooking supplies, and bunk beds—everything needed for a comfortable stay. It’s a 5-mile ski to the hut with a vertical gain of 1,600 feet, and sweeping panoramic views of the Sawtooth Range greet you after spending your first couple of miles in dense trees. Where you go ski on your second day is entirely up to you. With the Sawtooths literally out your front door, the options are limitless. And as for the views, well . . . words cannot do justice, so I’ll let the pictures tell the story.