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The Best Slopeside Ski Escapes

Ski-in/ski-out can mean any number of things. Sometimes it's a cookie-cutter condo, miles up a cat road. But at its best, slopeside lodging means a cozy hideaway that translates to first dibs on a powder day. These are some of our favorites.

White Wolf Cabins

Red Mountain, British Columbia
Rossland, B.C. is one of the most underrated ski towns in the world. Red Mountain is never crowded, and it’s flush with pillow drops, steep lines, and perfectly spaced trees. The B.C. locals tend to live pretty fast and loose, so there could be squatters living in cabins on the hill, but if you want to play by the rules, the White Wolf Cabin, right at the base of the Silverlode chair, is the closest on-hill lodging. It’s also one of the nicest. The four-bedroom cabin has plenty of space, not to mention a private hot tub. Plus, you’re walking distance to Rafters, an all-time favorite après bar.

Trapper's Cabin

Beaver Creek, Colorado Beaver
Creek’s slogan is “Not Exactly Roughing It,” and nowhere is that more true than the mid-mountain Trapper’s Cabin, which sleeps 10. It’s at the top of the Strawberry Park lift, right next to the McCoy Park Nordic center, so you have access to downhill and cross-country skiing right out the door. Rental of the four-bedroom cabin includes high-elevation views of the Gore Range, snow cat rides, and an on-hand chef, cabin keeper, and "roustabout." We’re not exactly sure what the roustabout’s job entails but we’re pretty sure they’re there to prevent you from roughing it.

The Bubble House

Sainte Foy Tarentaise, France
If you’re shooting for romantic, the Bubble House might be your best slopeside option. The tiny stone cottage only sleeps two, which can be a good thing. The ancient hut has been redone, so, it feels modern, and it has a big outdoor deck for grilling and stargazing. The slopes of Sainte Foy are right outside, and Val d'Isere, Tignes, Les Arcs, and La Rosiere are all within shooting range.

Rock Springs Yurt

Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole is known for its lift-accessed backcountry. On sunny stable mornings, you’ll often see a long line of skiers heading out the gates at the top of the Rendezvous Peak tram. You can turn a tram lap into an overnight adventure by booking the Rock Springs Yurt. The Yurt, which is at the bottom of Rock Springs Canyon, sleeps eight, and there’s a yurtmiester on hand to feed you and stoke the stove. Before the lifts open, you can tour the terrain around the yurt.

Snowpine Lodge Alta

Alta, Utah
Lodging in Little Cottonwood Canyon is notoriously unexciting. Nothing has changed there in a really long time and options are pretty limited. But there’s been one change lately: the Snowpine Lodge at Alta. It’s the oldest hotel building in the canyon, but it had been out of operation for a while, and there are rumors that it’s haunted. In 2012 the patriarch of the Pratts, a big Mormon family, bought it as a ski house for all of his grandkids. They still show up whenever they want, but he’s decided to run it as a hotel, too. It still kind of feels like a family ski house, if your family was way more pulled together than average and had very nice sheets. Plus, the food is good, and you’re slopeside at Alta.

Morino Lodge

Hakuba, Japan
When Craig Oldring first went to Japan, 14 years ago, he was expecting to fall in love with the culture, but he didn’t realize he’d be blown away by the snowboarding, too. “I was surprised when I got to Hakuba and saw snowfall like I’d never seen back in Canada—and we’re talking BC West Coast—and the kind of terrain I’d expected to see in Alaska, not Japan. The place was epic and empty,” he says. He stayed, and, because he couldn’t just ride all the time, opened the laid back Morino Lodge. The lodge is a short walk from the Happo gondola and close to the famous Monkey Onsen, where snow monkeys hang out near the hot springs.

Cowboy Heaven Cabins

Big Sky, Montana
Montana is prime cabin country, so it makes sense that there would be awesome on-hill cabins at Big Sky. The three log cabins that make up Cowboy Heaven get you easy access to both Big Sky and Moonlight. They’re right next to the Iron Horse lift. They each have huge kitchens and private hot tubs on the deck, so you can ski right into après mode.

The Bavarian

Taos, New Mexico 
Maybe it’s the beer, but skiing has a long-standing fascination with Bavarian villages(See also: Leavenworth, WA; Vail, CO). That’s abundantly clear at The Bavarian, on the hill at Taos, at the base of the Kachina lift. The lodge, which was opened by German expat Thomas Schulze, does not shy away from beer and brats culture. Its relatively new adjoining chalets are slightly less kitchy, but still give you easy access to the bar, and the steeps of Kachina Peak.

Crystal Cabin

Crystal Mountain, Washington
Due to forest service permits, most ski resorts in the Northwest have remained relatively underdeveloped. That’s great in a lot of ways, but it means that your lodging options are limited. At Crystal Mountain, you can stay at a few private home above the Gold Hills lift, like the Crystal Cabin, which sleeps nine and has a game room and a sauna. You can ride the lift to the A-frame cabin, or skin or snowmobile in after hours.

Bode Miller's Cabin

New Hampshire
It’s not exactly slopeside, but staying in Bode Miller’s New Hampshire cabin, down the road from his home hill of Cannon Mountain, is still prime real estate. The four-bedroom cabin, which Miller’s wife Morgan is renting out through Airbnb, is built around a tree trunk, and has a huge open kitchen. It’s close to the slopes of Bretton Woods, too, and it has electricity and heat, unlike the cabin Bode grew up in. Plus—you just rented Bode Miller's cabin.

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The Outdoor Exchange: Never Buy Gear Again

If your friends’ lack of kayaks keeps spoiling your dreams of organizing flotillas in nearby lakes, weep no more: last week, a small group of New Jersey men formally quit their jobs to focus on The Outdoor Exchange (OX), a subscription-based gear closet.

The brainchild of outdoor enthusiast and startup veteran Dariusz Jamiolkowski, five-week-old OX gives subscribers access to a catalog of high-end, expensive gear. Basic subscriptions to OX (there are a few options, the cheapest of which is $100) allow users to rent one item per week. You can rent more items at 10 percent of each additional product’s value. OX recently started an Indiegogo campaign to boost its membership, and expects to be “fully operational” by July, after which point basic subscription costs will double. 

So far, most of the rentals come from New Jersey (OX is based in Fairlawn), but subscribers hail from California, Colorado, Florida, and even England. Jamiolkowski estimates the young company rents about 10 items per week, and he hopes to attract more than 1,000 total subscribers by the end of summer, mainly by preaching the company's cause at big events like the Philly Folk music festival and relying on word of mouth. 

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/ox-team-by-creek_h.jpg","size":"medium"}%}

But while OX is still young (currently it only has a couple hundred paying members), it's run by seven business- and tech-savy teammates whose resumes are padded with names like Lockheed Martin and Novo Nordisk. Jamiolkowski officially left his position as Handybook’s vice president of finance in February after being accepted into startup incubator TechLaunch, while marketing lead Adam Hackett quit his day job on June 6.

That team has come up with a unique gear-sharing model. Unlike GearCommons—another peer-to-peer program that depends on its users to supply gear—OX stocked its warehouse full of gear by working directly with manufacturers and distributors. The majority of the 300 products in its inventory were provided by companies like Black Diamond, Hobie, Maverick, and Folbot, a foldable kayak manufacturer. It's a relationship that benefits both parties. 

“The issue (Folbot’s) having is that they have a great product, but it's hard for somebody who hasn't been in a foldable kayak to spend $1,200 on a foldable kayak,” Jamiolkowski said. “So we're putting butts in the seats for these guys. We're gonna get people to try the product and nine out of 10 people are gonna try it and say it was great, but one person is gonna end up purchasing the kayak...And our customers are going to be happy because they get to use a premium product at a low entry-point.”

The company is still working out some kinks, including how to streamline shipping costs. For New Jersey residents, OX will drop off and set up gear at trailheads within 25 miles of its warehouse for $20. But the idea of spending $100 a year on shared gear doesn’t sound as good if you have to pay an additonal $200 in shipping.

This week, OX began testing what its founder calls the Trailblazer Program. For a set $74 per year, subscribers can ship all their rentals for free within the continental United States. Ultimately, the team hopes to open local warehouses where subscriptions are most concentrated to help defray costs. 

You may be wondering, “What happens if the gear gets damaged?” Well, Jamiolkowski and his team have set up a system to incentivize good gear treatment. OX rates both customers and gear internally when products are returned. If a customer gets low enough marks, she can’t rent gear anymore. “In order for this to work, it's gotta work both ways,” says Jamiolkowski. “Have you seen Meet the Fockers? We're building the Circle of Trust.

“We have families to support and mortgages to pay for, but we strongly believe in what we're doing, based on everything we've done so far to build a very successful, not only business, but a community for outdoor enthusiasts,” he says. 

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Rungu Juggernaut Bike

Trike meets fattie in the 55.8-pound aluminum Rungu Juggernaut, a bike designed to take you up and over pretty much anything.

The bike comes with two forks, 26-inch wheels, and 4.7-inch tires. According to Rungu, the added third wheel improves float in the snow up to 50 percent and the bike can "overcome obstacles up to six-inches tall at crawl speed." Let's just say we’re excited to test those claims this winter. 

Need even more power to conquer the trails? The Juggernaut is fixed with mounting points for electric-bike kits.

$2,500, riderungu.com

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The Mobile Hostel Bus of Your Powder-Hound Dreams

For those of us who just want to hit the slopes, finding ideal lodging can be a painstakingly annoying afterthought. Optimal pricing and amenities can make or break a ski trip—hotels with the right mix of affordability, flexibility, and comfort aren't easy to find and can easily tie you down. Fear no more: A successful Indiegogo campaign has got you covered.

Yesterday, a Belgian-based group raising money for what they call "the Nomads Bus"—a mobile hostel designed to shuttle lodgers to the best powder in Austria, Switzerland, and France—closed its Indiegogo effort after surpassing its goal of 20,000 euros in about six weeks. Spearheaded by two self-described nomads named Val and Tim, the fundraising drive raised 23,115 euros—that's more than $31,000 for our stateside readers—which should be more than enough to bring the Nomads Bus to fruition.

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/swiss-alps-nomadbus.jpg","size":"large","caption":"The Nomads Bus will travel Europe in search of the best skiing destinations—options include Austria, France, and Switzerland (pictured)."}%}

Where will the money go? For starters, Val and Tim plan to buy and ship a 40-foot school bus from Florida to Belgium. That's right, the bus your kids dread getting onto in the morning could soon be shuttling thrill seekers to the best powder in Europe. From there, they plan to spend the summer renovating the bus with their friends, but in the greenest, most cost-effective way possible.

Still, the costs are expected to add up: 3,000 euros for a solar system, 4,000 for a wood stove, 1,000 for a compost toilet, and so on. It all comes back to the campaign's goal: to create an awesome adventure experience that's also not for profit, eco-friendly, carbon neutral, and sponsored by small indie brands.

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/nomad-schoolbus.jpg","size":"large","caption":"Let's Be Nomads announced on June 2 that it had found its dream bus: this Thomas school bus in Tennessee."}%}

Getting in on the fun shouldn't be too tough if you're willing to shell out a little cash. Donors who committed upwards of 350 euros to the Indiegogo page got first dibs but didn't come close to filling all the slots. The Nomads Bus hosts five guests at a time and offers multiple packages, all currently discounted:

  • For 50 euros (currently 40) per night, you can purchase the "Super Flexible Package," which allows you to choose as many nights as you want but forgoes many amenities.
  • For 399 euros (currently 349), you can purchase the "Short Stay Package," which gets you four nights of the basics plus a three-day ski pass, daily organic breakfasts and dinners, and one transfer to another resort.
  • For 749 euros (currently 649), you can purchase the "All-In Week Package," which nets you a seven-night trip with a six-day ski pass, organic breakfasts and dinners, pickup and dropoff at the Innsbruck train station or airport, sheets, towels, and private ski lessons. 

But there's more! If cold weather isn't your thing, the bus plans to continue operating in the summer, when it'll cruise along the Atlantic coast as a mobile wave-chasing hostel for avid surfers.

Find out more about the campaign and how to sign up through the Nomads Bus Indiegogo page.

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The $1 Million Gear Shed

These days you can share almost everything, from couches to cars. But outdoor gear? The idea hadn’t really been explored until three entrepreneurs launched GearCommons last August.

Mike Brown and fellow Tufts graduate James Rogers wanted to bring gear to the people. Along with friend Joel Weber, they created GearCommons—a sharing network that helps gear owners find people who want to rent their tents, kayaks, and other equipment that otherwise might spend lots of time in storage.

The basic premise is simple. The GearCommons web portal lets users search for rentable gear by type and location. If you see a product you need, you can review its specs and history, as well as the owner’s. Users first connect and make payments online, but gear transactions and returns have to take place between neighbors, in person. That way, the company claims, users get to meet people with similar interests, building a real-life social network of outdoor enthusiasts. 

Brown realized the potential of a “sharing economy” when he started blogging for Shareable* at the beginning of 2013. A biomedical engineer by trade, Brown’s a zealous outdoorsman with startup aspirations. After using car-sharing company Zipcar’s services in college, he realized that shared technology could curb inefficient spending and material use. It could also make outdoor recreation possible for people who either couldn’t afford, or didn’t have room to store, their own gear.   

“We’re trying to build a community of people who will share gear and reduce their impact on the environment,” Brown says. “We think it’s kind of a waste to be buying equipment you know you’re only going to use once—for, say, a music festival or a one-week hiking trip.”

Musing about a world of shared gear is one thing. Actually creating a social network that connects people and gear nationwide is a whole other animal, requiring immense amounts of research and skill. But outdoor gear is a $120 billion industry, and the trio was determined to tap into it.

The company does have some major hurdles to overcome—chief among them is expanding its user base. A cursory look at the GearCommons website and social accounts shows that the enterprise is still in its early stages.

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/gearcommons-site-tent_fe.jpg","size":"large"}%}

GearCommons has about $50,000 worth of gear in Boston, but activity is essentially confined so far to that locale—where Brown and his colleagues are based. Even then, site searches for essential gear show that only a few owners have gotten on board. A handful live in western states like Colorado and California, but no one offers gear yet in New Mexico (to our dismay). GearCommons has declined to say how many people have signed up for its services.

Still, some users say the slow extension westward isn’t indicative of the company’s value. “I think the startup has a really great idea. I know that when they are big enough, they could go nationwide—maybe even worldwide,” says member Neil Suttora, a unicyclist and Northeastern University student. Suttora put a tent, unicycle, and sleeping pad on the site after a mutual friend introduced him to Brown a year ago. But he hasn’t found renters for any of his listings yet. 

Some transactions have gone down, Brown says, although the company won’t say just how many. The other obvious obstacle has to do with liability. No one wants to rent out their personal gear if it’s going to come back damaged—or not come back at all. To address these concerns, Brown and his colleagues allow owners to apply security deposits to their gear up front. Renters pay the security deposit at the start and get their money back when they return equipment (in good condition) to its owners. 

Though other businesses in the sharing economy have run into a mess of regulatory hurdles and lawsuits, Brown says that “there’s really not much in the way legally of an idea like this spreading.” Not yet, anyway. 

{%{"quote":"“We have a vision for what we’re calling the Million-Dollar Gear Closet. By joining GearCommons, you’ll have access to a $1 million in outdoor gear from your peers. We’re not there yet, but I don’t think it will take long to reach that goal.”"}%}

Despite a slow start, some business professionals see potential in GearCommons—or, at least, in the idea behind it. 

Perry Klebahn, a consulting professor in Stanford’s engineering school who helps young entrepreneurs get their startups off the ground, predicts GearCommons can carve out its own niche. “Any sort of manufacturer who’s not taking note of what GearCommons is doing and figuring out how they can be involved with the company, or figuring out how they can be involved with reuse of their own products, is nuts,” he says.

But Klebahn isn’t sure creating a new social platform was the way to go. “I might have started on somebody else’s platform, like eBay, and created a store within eBay to prototype the idea,” he explains. “I’m not convinced why the consumer wants another thing in their life.” Instead of immediately opening GearCommons up to all interested parties, says Klebahn, the team should have developed a stronger base of users in Boston before presenting their product nationally. 

Growing pains aside, other big names are seeing great potential in GearCommons as well. The team, which came in second in this year’s Tufts $100,000 Business Plan Competition, has already been in talks with companies like Patagonia about affiliate programs. GearCommons expects to mine user data to benefit such outfitters and gear developers. 

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/gearcommons-team_fe.jpg","align":"left","size":"medium","caption":"Two founding members of GearCommons, and an athletic banana."}%}

“If you rate a tent highly, we can then suggest that you go buy it. And so that is kind of like a sharing economy–retail hybrid,” Brown says, adding that there might be discounts on items found through GearCommons. “You know, we’re not trying to keep people from buying outdoor gear. We just want them to make more efficient use of it.” 

Over the next few months, Brown thinks that continuing in earnest with social media campaigns and hosting campus and community events is the way to go. However, the team is considering starting a GearCommons community-rep program that would build brand recognition and get word out in person in key locations—in the ethos of the peer-to-peer model. 

This short-term plan doesn’t reflect the team’s long-term vision, however: understanding your potential isn’t the same thing as realizing it. One hurdle will be staying levelheaded. Though many startups explode over a period of months, GearCommons hasn’t so far done that. The company is barely off the ground, and Brown is already thinking big. 

“Over the next several years, we hope to see GearCommons get people outside in every context,” Brown says, mentioning GearCommons-sponsored travel packages, sport lessons, and the like. “We just happen to be starting with access to gear.” 

“We have a vision for what we’re calling the Million-Dollar Gear Closet,” he explains. “By joining GearCommons, you’ll have access to a $1 million in outdoor gear from your peers. We’re not there yet—but, once the word gets out, I don’t think it will take long to reach that goal.”

*Outside previously reported that Brown wrote for Social Solutions Collective, not Shareable, though the link has always been to Brown's Shareable pieces. 

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