A:The sheer vastness of Big Sky Country can be incredibly alluring, especially on skis. And with 147,165 square miles to explore, there's every reason to do so. And as you learned last year, Yellowstone is one of the state's most recognized cross-country skiing destinations, but there are other spots that deserve to be discovered. The trick is finding where to warm your tired body once you've skied through that magnificent Rocky Mountain terrain.
Just 50 miles northeast of Missoula sits Seeley Lake. A resort town flanked by the Mission Mountain Wilderness to the northwest and the Bob Marshall Wilderness to the northeast, 11 miles of world-class Nordic ski trails and many more miles of backcountry skiing await avid XCers. Yurtski outfitters (406.721.1779) offers guided cross-country trips throughout the Swan Lake Mountain Range bordering the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Spend your day exploring miles of untouched pow as your guide takes you on a variety of Nordic trails that range from flat and easy to steep and difficult. Or test your skills at backcountry alpine skiing. After a full
For a personal guided tour through Glacier National Park, head a little farther north to Glacier Adventure Guides (877.735.9514), who offer full- and multi-day tours on backcountry and mountain pass trails that rarely see mankind during winter months. Spend as little as one day or as long as a week touring the high country of Glacier National Park alongside gray wolves, elk, lynx, and bighorn sheep. Because there are no huts or winter accommodations, the resourceful guides build snow caves or igloos, and promise their guests the warm, relaxing nights they'll crave. If you prefer sleeping under the stars, they'll be more than happy to accommodate you when weather permits, which it often does. Three meals are included each day and prepared by your guide. If your schedule is flexible, Glacier Adventure Guides offers guided tours from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the night of every full moon. Prices start at $205 per person and include transportation, equipment, guide, meals, and park fees.
Or fully customize your tour with Idaho's Sun Valley Trekking (208.788.1966), where a Mongolian yurt, gourmet meals, and cedar saunas await. On their hut-to-hut tour, you'll ski all day and wind down at night in the comfort of a toasty hut while dining on homemade meals and fine wine. Trips can be designed as a one-day adventures or multi-day extravaganzas in Sun Valley's Sawtooth Mountains. Boulder Yurts and Fishhook Yurt are ideal lodging units for cross-country skiers, with Boulder sitting at the base of Butterfield Mountain in the Smokey Mountains. The yurt sleeps 14 with all the amenities of home, including a wood stove, bunks, and kitchen supplies. A wood-fired sauna will have you feeling like you've reserved four-star accommodations instead of backcountry lodging. Fishhook lies in the Sawtooth Mountains and offers views of 10,751-foot Thompson Peak (the Sawtooth's highest). A Mongolian-style yurt and a pioneer wall tent connected by a lodgepole pine-framed walkway make this camp feel more like a secluded fort. Factor in two wood stoves as well as lanterns, bunks, cooking equipment, and a wood-fired hot tub, and you'll agree this four-mile tour is worthwhile. You'll also have the choice of touring along a creek or ridgeline for breathtaking views. Prices start at $210 per person per day for a guided, catered trip to a hut.
- Amy A. Clark