From Italy’s Ortler Alps to Quebec’s Chic-Chocs to Idaho’s Sawtooths, backcountry huts without a doubt simplify the logistics of multiday mountain ski tours.
Some huts have their own full-time chefs, a wood-fired sauna or craft brews on tap; others at the very least provide basic shelter and warmth to tired skiers and riders passing through. Still, in Vermont’s Green Mountains, despite their rich backcountry skiing history, there are surprisingly few huts of this sort. That is, unless you know the right people.
A few years back, along with a collective dozen friends, my wife Emily and I pulled off a very adventurous long-weekend backcountry tour linking a dozen fresh descents across more than thirty miles of unmarked terrain, through some of Vermont’s most delectable backcountry. With the exception of a few rustic, summer-oriented shelters, there were no well-equipped winter accommodations along our route—however, there were a few of our friends’ homes. So, with few options to support a practical hut-to-hut skiing adventure, we went house-to-house instead. And it worked like a charm.
Our plan was simple, and it serves as a good model for future trips. We started with breakfast at our friend Scott’s place near Vermont’s Bolton Valley, and spent a full day climbing and skiing mostly-familiar terrain along a northbound route toward Mike and Sarah’s. There, a few friends from the area dropped in for dinner. The next day we skied onward to Dan’s place beneath Mount Mansfield, where we feasted together and rested peacefully before a final push to our end point near Stowe. Over celebratory beers in town, we felt like pioneers in our own backyards, bringing life to what we now personally refer to as the SharkyBraskaVoyznHorn route.
Vermont is unique in that much of the population is nestled among the mountains, with access to the backcountry right outside our back doors. Using friends’ homes as stopovers has unlimited potential. And where there are no friends or others willing to host a few passing backcountry skiers and riders, there is likely a country inn or bed-and-breakfast to fill the void. Your very own house-to-house tour will likely require some expert navigating, the hopping of fence lines and skiing through town. Yet, considering the house-to-house approach enables multiday tours with merely a daypack, these challenges only add to the fun.
There might be a good reason there are not many winter-oriented backcountry huts in Vermont—for many Vermonters, the backcountry is right out our doors.
In contrast to a day trip, going house-to-house makes it easy to tap the great variety of terrain that makes travel through many areas of Vermont’s Green Mountains unique.
Going house-to-house in Vermont will likely mean exploring some unfamiliar terrain, and uncovering at least a few gems in the mountain landscape you’ll want to return to.
A house-to-house tour is as much about the friends along the way as it is about the turns. Host friends may be able to come along on the whole tour, or simply rendezvous for that last run back to their place, where dinner and warm beds await. Other friends might drop in for breakfast and the first run of the day. Whatever you arrange, the house-to-house tour makes it easy for others to be a part of it, however they are able.