Tucked into a corner of the Yellowstone backcountry you’ll find Yurt Camp. Operated by Yellowstone Expeditions, it’s a miniature village of yurts and tents, a home base for cross-country ski touring. The camp includes a sauna, a couple of main, communal yurts, and small two-person sleeping tents, plus a (heated) outhouse. A network of ski and snowshoe trails runs from the camp into the vastness of the park, and four- to eight-day guided trips begin at $1,000.
Yep, they’re letting ordinary, gravity-bound civilians try the ski jump these days in Utah. The Utah Olympic Park also offers programs for youth or adults who want to give freestyle skiing or aerials a shot. Head to Park City if you dare.
In Canada’s Sirmilik National Park, glacier ice meets sea ice in a harsh, wild, High Arctic setting. The park is reachable by boat or by snowmobile from the nearby Nunavut communities of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay—only licensed outfitters are allowed to bring you into the park.
Sirmilik is as remote as it gets, with glacier and avalanche dangers, roaming polar bears, extreme weather, and limited local rescue capabilities. Any ski-touring trip here should be carefully planned. The park website emphasizes the importance of building in time for weather delays and other hold-ups. “Travelers may find that their personal itineraries are in conflict with the schedule dictated by wind, cold, and storm,” the site notes. “If you come north with an inflexible schedule, you run the risk of remembering your once-in-a-lifetime trip only for its frustrations. But come prepared to accept the Arctic on its own terms—and it will open its heart to you.”
The noise is like nothing else on earth: Hundreds of huskies barking, screeching, howling, and moaning as they wait impatiently to get harnessed up and released from the start line. The dogs are amped up with enough energy to carry them through 1,000 miles of wilderness, often running about 100 miles a day. The scene at the start of a major dog sledding race has to be heard to be believed.
Long-distance mushing isn’t much of a spectator sport—its most famous races, the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, each pass through a thousand miles of remote northern wilderness, where the Internet comes in by satellite, if at all, and any camera crews would have to follow along by snowmobile or by ski plane. Good luck convincing network TV to send their people into Alaska’s mountain passes in the heart of winter.
But you can watch the race starts, and see the dogs and their frost-bearded mushers tearing off down the trail. The Yukon Quest takes place in early February, and runs between Whitehorse, Yukon, and Fairbanks, Alaska; its start and end points alternate each year. In 2013—the 30th running of the Quest—the race will begin in Whitehorse on February 2. The next month, on March 2, the Iditarod begins in downtown Anchorage.