Photograph by Mike Hamann
Mention skiing the Wallowas and the response might be hushed silences from die-hard skiers or, more likely … crickets. But therein lies the appeal of this remote, off-the-radar mountain range rising from the no-man’s-land of eastern Oregon. The Wallowas are somewhat of an anomaly: Though they’re geographically closer to the Cascades, they more closely resemble the Rockies with their dry, superlight snowpack and steep, jagged peaks.
With few lifts in sight and the best skiing a morning-long hike from the nearest road, savvy skiers set up camp in the wilderness to tour the backcountry for multiple days. Wallowa Alpine Huts, run by a bunch of entertaining ski bums, offers trips that do just that with the help of five yurts. Choose the McCully camp for gentle meadows, sparse glades, easy summits, and a smattering of challenging chutes. Or opt for the Norway camp for knee-weakening peaks and steeper terrain. Either way, the experience offers plenty of challenge, but the long hours of climbing are rewarded with powder that’s light, dry, and often knee-deep; a wood-fired sauna at the end of the day; and the smug satisfaction of having the whole place utterly to yourself.
Need to Know: Contact Wallowa Alpine Huts (www.wallowahuts.com) for trip dates. A guided and catered trip costs $625 for four days or $725 for five days. Unguided, four-day trips start at $200 per person.