Below a line of old National Park Ranger hats hung on a Wyoming wall and hidden in a barrel of nordic skis rests an ancient pair of edgeless wooden planks. Warped with curved tails and splintered bottoms, they look like they would make better firewood than skis. “Those are my grandfather’s,” Tyson Philips says holding a glass of whiskey. “And if I had to guess, I’d say they are 70 or 80 years old.” Philips is an old ski buddy of Backcountry’s Editor in Chief, Adam Howard, and he now farms his family’s land in the middle of Wyoming.Philips’s ranch is on the outside of the small oil town of Riverton, Wyo. surrounded by small buttes and snowy fields where cows roam freely under clear skies. The hills in the distance have just enough snow on them to make me restless to get skiing. After three weeks or traveling, two trade shows and a dismal amount of skiing, my nerves—and the rest of those in the Backcountry Basecamp road crew—are on edge and ready for good snow. The main purpose for our stop in Riverton is to pick up a fire pit that Philips hand built for the Backcountry Basecamp Tour. He cut the steel, welded all the joints and attached two ski-like legs to the bottom so it can easily be pushed around in the snow. “I stitch-seamed the base of the pit,” Philips says. “That will prevent it from filling up with water in case it rains or a bunch of snow melts in it.” In order to pick up the fire pit, we drove the Basecamp rig crammed with gear and five guys for 12 hours through traffic and several snow storms. But we were rewarded and greeted at house warmed by an old Heartland woodstove and a pot of homemade beef stew that had been cooking all day. After our long drive in bad weather, we filled our stomachs while Philips told us stories of life on the ranch.
As I sipped whiskey inside Philips’s shop, trade show and travel anxieties finally began to diminish. And tomorrow, we’ll make the short four-hour drive to Jackson, Wyo. and begin the Backcountry Basecamp set up.