Just over an hour drive from Sun Valley, find Stanley, a small town home to only 63 people but a beautiful basecamp for exploring the Sawtooth Mountains in both summer and winter. This January, five of my friends and I ventured into the Williams Peak Yurt for three days of backcountry skiing. Want to plan your own yurt trip?
- To Stanley: 1.25 hours up and over Galena Pass from Sun Valley or take the slow but Scenic Hwy 21 from Boise.
- To the Yurt: The trail to the yurt is located near the forest service office just south of town on right. Meet one of the yurt managers at the forest service office and ask them to show you to the trailhead. The trail to the yurt is mellow and we were able to bring a few backcountry sleds with us to help carry gear. The record is 2 hours, max is 6 hours, and we did it in just under 4 hours.
About the Yurt
There are two yurts side by side. If you have more than 8 people it makes sense to use the second yurt as well. But with only 6 folks, we were more than comfortable (and warmer) in just the first yurt.
- Amenities: fully stocked kitchen, wood burning stove, mattresses, maps and books, games, pit toilet, lanterns.
- Sauna: This might be the best part of the yurt. It only takes about an hour to heat up (use small pieces of wood and kindling to make a hotter fire). You would think you'd feel sweaty and gross, but it's actually totally refreshing. And you can sort of wash off with chunks of snow right in the sauna and, believe me, you will air dry on the walk back to the yurt.
Skiers Summit is located right behind the yurt. You'll probably want to plan on about an hour to get to the top (which is sort of a false summit to Williams Peak). It will be obvious when you reach the top. There are a bunch of couloirs that run to the north and a huge south facing glade. The snow pack was pretty unstable and it was such a low snow year that we took the safest line down by following the east ridge and then picking our way through the trees back to the yurt. Still awesome skiing.
There is so much to ski out there, whether you venture up to Williams Peak, Thompson Peak and anything in between. If it's your first time to the yurt, hire a guide to show you the best lines.
Planning your trip
Packing List: The yurt website provides a pretty in-depth packing list.
Rates: $400/night (up to 8 ppl). $50/person/night for additional persons up to 16 people.
When to go: Pretty much any time between January and the end of March for the best snow. Remember that reservations are final!! When we went in January, there were still quite a few open dates. If you have a flexible schedule I would almost wait and book closer to the time.
Plan to Stay in Stanley the night before: We stayed at the Mountain Village the night before we went into the yurt which allowed us to get an early start. There is a hot spring on site and we ate dinner at the nearby Kasino Club (nothing fancy but fun atmosphere and pool table).
Hit up a hot spring on your way home: There are tons of natural hot springs in the area, so if you get out early on your last day plan to take a dip somewhere.
Closest Airport: Boise is the closest airport if you are flying in. You can rent a car there and then head to Stanley.
Other yurts in the area: Williams Peak isn't the only yurt in the area although it's well known because it's easily accessible and has great skiing. Other yurts: http://www.svtrek.com/huts.php