Lodge Logistics: Pack, Plan and Execute a Hut Trip

Guided or self-guided? Purcells or Monashees? Late January or early March? Whether you’ve been to one backcountry hut or a half dozen, there’s still a whole lot to determine when planning your next trip. But for the guides and owners who run these outfits, the only thing that outnumbers their days in the field is the volume of tips they can offer for packing, planning and executing an all-time trip. Our advice? Think of lodge operators as your backcountry concierge and don’t hesitate to call when preparing for a trip. They have more beta than you can imagine. —The Editors

lodgelogistics

All moved in at Sun Valley Trekking’s original Bench Hut. Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho. [Photo] Tyler Cohen

Proper planning is the key to avalanche safety during your trip. Often times, forecast centers (avalanche.org or avalanche.ca) will have links to remote weather stations that can help you anticipate snow depths, temperatures and other weather conditions you may encounter. Talk to the previous group at the hut if possible to find out what they saw, and plan on easing into the terrain upon arrival. Take it easy for the first day or two as you get to know the conditions, and consider instituting morning and evening ‘meetings’ to discuss conditions, plan the day and review the day’s objectives.” —Chris Lundy, Sawtooth Mountain Guides

One of the things to be really concerned about is public health. There’s always a flu bug or something going around, and when you’re in a confined space like a hut, it’s so easy for these things to spread. What I always say is, ‘Come strong, come healthy. Go home tired but strong and still healthy.’ People have to be brutally honest with themselves and their group members because it can ruin everybody’s experience if somebody comes in sick.” —Shelly Galsheen, Valkyr Adventures

Know your group and make sure everybody is on board for what to expect in terms of access and terrain. You can look at our website to get a broad generalization of where our huts are or give us a call to figure out which would be best for your group. There can be so much to figuring out where the trailhead is, the route in, and the complex terrain around a hut, so hiring a guide, even just a first-day guide, can really help. They can go over the map with you, give you up-to-date avalanche information, and most importantly, show you where the good skiing will be for your trip.” Francie St. Onge, Sun Valley Trekking

A fully-catered and guided backcountry skiing hut trip is the ultimate vacation. You focus on skiing, and everything else is done for you. But it is important to do your homework when choosing the lodge and guide. Focus on quality, not on price, because in the end, you get what you pay for. Find out what is included in the price (i.e. helicopter, use of beacons, shovels, probes and ABS packs). Look at the terrain to make sure it is the type of terrain that you want to ski. Once there, relax and enjoy.” —Nicoline Beglinger, Selkirk Mountain Experience

Generally, huts have reservation windows and you’re married to your reservation, so you need to be ready for a variety of conditions. There’s no such thing as a day you can’t ski, it’s just about finding the right terrain. Get out every day, and even if you have bad conditions, you’ll have better memories for it. I think people take conditions for granted, so pack your ski gear in accordance with potentially variable conditions. When I’m headed out on a hut trip, I pick a mid-fat ski that I run a lot, the most versatile ski possible. And definitely bring boots that you’ve toured in a lot—people show up on their dream trip with brand new boots and their feet are hamburgered in the first 12 hours.” —Eli Potter, Wild Alpine

 This story first appeared in the February/March 2014 issue of Backcountry Magazine.

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