Gliding up to a woodstove-warmed lodge in the backcountry should be on every skier's bucket list. The Alps are famous for their network of backcountry hostels, sometimes perched in the most outrageous spots. And British Columbia sports dozens of splendid properties accessible only by helicopter. Can’t afford those getaways? Check out our list of excellent U.S. backcountry lodges accessible in winter only on your own two legs.
Alta Lakes Observatory, Colorado
This swanky wood-and-stone chalet can be accessed via a 20-minute ski from Telluride’s Baldy Gate. Or get there via the unplowed road with the option of having your gear shuttled by snowmobile. The 2.5 bedroom lodge must be rented out in its entirety, but sleeps up to 16 under down comforters, and includes a sauna and a legendary hot tub—the frame on the circular window hanging above the tub is made from a ski lift bullwheel. The kitchen is dialed with Viking appliances, though if you’d rather not touch them, the owners can help arrange a cook for your stay. The observatory is tucked beneath 13,000-foot Palmyra and Silver Peaks. The only problem might be elevation sickness—the Observatory is perched at 11,000-feet, so be sure to acclimate in Telluride (8,750 feet) for a few nights before bunking here.
Gorman Chairback Lodge, Maine
Part of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s push to bring more visitors to Maine’s northwoods, Gorman Chairback is a refurbished 1867 hunting camp on the shores of Long Pond. In winter, it’s a seven-mile trek from the nearest trailhead, part of a network of 80 miles of groomed ski trail connecting several other backcountry lodges. For a fee, the club will shuttle your gear. Once there, though, settle into your cabin, ski the trails, or snowshoe to the top of Third Mountain. Don’t be late, however, for family-style dinner at 6 pm sharp, or breakfast at 8 am. Want to bring your dog? Head to Little Lyford Lodge in the same network, where there are also home cooked meals and hot showers. You’ll just have to bring your own linens.
Lost Trail Lodge, California
In winter, Lost Trail Lodge is a four-mile ski up the Cold Creek drainage outside Truckee, California. Recuperate here after a few days of hill banging at Squaw Valley or Sugar Bowl, or do some backcountry touring right out the back door. Lost trail sleeps 20 in seven rooms, or you can rent them out individually. A full-time caretaker does the sheets after you leave, and might pull one of the instruments off the common-room wall to lead an impromptu nightly jam session, but won’t do the cooking. You’ll have to haul in your own food, but once there, the kitchen is stocked with anything you’d need to whip up your gourmet grub. Micro-hydro and solar panels run the professional-grade appliances in this off-grid lodge, not to mention the Jacuzzi tubs.
Opus Hut, Colorado
Opened in 2011, this spectacular hut is perched at 11,765 feet in the San Juan mountains between Telluride and Silverton. It's hand-built from reclaimed wood from a century-old dairy barn. In winter, it’s accessible via a three-mile skin up the unplowed road. Opus sleeps 16, and you can rent a bunk, a room, or the whole lodge. Nicer than most of the huts in Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division system, Opus includes running water, indoor toilets, a sauna, and solar power to charge your gadgets. For an extra $40, you’ll get three hearty meals a day. Also recommended: hiring a ski guide to break trail for you on the world-class slopes around the hut.
Downing Mountain Lodge, Montana
Parked beneath the slopes of 8,500-foot Downing Mountain, the lodge is a backcountry skier’s outpost in Montana’s untracked Bitterroot Mountains. The former steakhouse (hence the spacious industrial-grade kitchen) has been converted to a cozy three-bedroom lodge featuring a round, lodge-pole beam layout circling a mighty stone fireplace. It's accessible in winter only by a 1.5-mile ski up an unplowed road in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains. Snowmobiles are available to shuttle gear. You’ll rent the whole place out for guided or self-guided skiing, or just hanging out in one of the two hot tubs. The terrain features gladed and wide-open shots of up to 3,500-feet.