Published: December 2009/January 2010Instant Adventures

Mountain States

Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.

Text by Editor at Large Robert Earle Howells
Hike-To Huts

A weekend trip to Ridgway Hut in the San Juan Mountains is, in effect, a mini-expedition. The hut is set at 10,700 feet, on the slopes of 12,900-foot Reconnoiter Peak, with glades and steep tree runs right outside the door—but reaching it requires a six-mile push from the trailhead in Uncompahgre National Forest. To ease logistics, enlist the pros from Boulder-based Natural Fitness Guided Adventures, who will help you attack long chutes and 1,500-foot couloirs or do some mellow powder skiing on the shoulder of the summit ridge. The crux of the outing is a pre-sunrise alpine ascent of Reconnoiter Peak followed by a ski back down for breakfast. Guides do all the cooking, with an emphasis on organic and healthy. Think of it as cat skiing without the cat, heli-skiing without the heli (groups of four, from $850 per person; nfga.info).

Kiting goes up

Snowkiting has soared beyond its birthplace on frozen Midwest lakes to a mountain playground and some heady new sensations, like skiing up thousand-foot slopes. “It’s the best in the country for sheer terrain,” says Snowkite Soldier’s Andrew Goldman of the 20-by-15-mile Camas Prairie, where he runs clinics and takes experienced kiters on hundred-mile jaunts into the backcountry, with snowmobile assistance. Skiing uphill? “Yep,” he says. “It’s like having a chairlift in your backpack.” Snowkite Soldier’s intro clinics ($90) commence in mid to late December, and four-day adventure camps that combine lessons and exploring are on for January 14–17, February 25–28, and March 2–5 (from $850 per person, including lodging at Soldier Mountain; snowkitesoldier.com).

Downhill Yellowstone

After a five-year nap, Yellowstone’s closest ski area has bounced back with 21st-century trappings: a brand-new triple chairlift, 900 feet of vertical skiing, and a cool terrain park made entirely of local materials—big logs and boulders—pulled right off the mountain. Sleeping Giant’s motto is “Let’s make skiing affordable,” ergo, a $29 adult day pass (skisg.com). Getting there is as fun as skiing there. The hill is five miles outside Yellowstone’s east gate, 47 miles from Cody, via the road Teddy Roosevelt called “the most scenic 52 miles in America.” Giant also has 16 miles of groomed Nordic track, while nearby Shoshone Lodge has cabins (doubles from $110; shoshonelodge.com).

Drive the Ice Highway

Call it reverse psychology: Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs is patterned after European-style rally racing—basically, the art of driving really fast on roads you’ve never seen before. On three mile-long courses, drivers manage icy tracks replete with banks, hills, and off-camber turns. Two of the courses emphasize safety; the other, performance. Either way, be a good student and you’ll push 90 on ice by day’s end (full-day performance course, $950; winterdrive.com).

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