Published: March 2009
Mountain States
Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.
Text by Contributing Editor Robert Earle Howells
The Wild File: Stalk Hungry Wolves

Wolves, winter, and big beasts in Yellowstone National Park make for the greatest spectacle of wildlife viewing this side of the Serengeti. "By March, the big game are getting it worse and worse," says Ken Sinay, owner and head guide of Yellowstone Safari Co. "Until the fresh forage of spring, they’re in a weakened condition." They’re also fair game for savvy wolves that know their prey will shift to the northern part of the park where snows are a bit less deep and the game can move more easily. The ensuing drama of stalker and stalked plays out against a snowy white backdrop before the eyes of guides and clients on a two-day Winter Wolf and Wildlife Safari (from $404 per person, depending on group size, including an overnight cabin; Sinay and fellow guides track the game with "a 99 percent success rate" and in March often get to see kills. Almost certainly, you’ll spot elk, bison, moose, foxes, mule deer, pronghorn, coyotes, and, of course, wolves. Each guest gets binoculars, a sighting scope, and a seat in a customized open-roof Suburban, plus hikes and snowshoe treks for a closer look. Like the wolves, you go where the prey is.

The Life List: Bomb the San Juans

"We can’t guarantee knee-deep champagne powder blowing up over your head on every run," says Silverton Powdercats co-owner Todd Brodbeck about backcountry skiing in his Silverton-area backyard. "But we work hard to get you an untracked line every time" ($300; Powdercats’ lair is 3,000 acres of the San Juan Mountains that start at 10,000 feet, from which you can get up to 13,000 and ski down wild bowls, chutes, and glades. You’ll share the views of fourteeners like Aolis and Twilight with nine other skiers at most (advanced intermediates and up, please), and your snowcat will be waiting after every run. (Who needs helicopters?) The nearby town of Silverton is suitably un-chic, full of ski bars and lodging, and everyone speaks fluent backcountry.

Discover Skinny-Ski Paradise

Cross-country skiers are the Rodney Dangerfields of the winter sports world. But at Sun Valley, in the northern Rocky Mountains, the skinny-ski inclined finally get some respect. The valley’s new "warming hut" is the 58,000-square-foot Nordic Center with such niceties as lockers, showers, restaurants, bars, an indoor driving range, virtual golf, and a pro shop. But the real story is what’s just outside: 40 kilometers of trails groomed for both trad and skate skiing on-site, plus a vast (150K) network of county-maintained trails (three days, both networks, $40; Don’t miss the 10K Proctor Loop that swings by Trail Creek Cabin, a backwoods bar/restaurant and erstwhile Hemingway hangout, en route to rolling hills and great views of Bald Mountain (the ski hill). The nearby Sun Valley Lodge is no slouch either. Set in the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains, the 148-room retreat has an ice-skating rink and heated outdoor pools ($219).

Save the Date, March 14–15: Skijor Red Lodge (That’s Right, Skijor)

Red Lodge Mountain Resort is a small, off-the-radar ski area northeast of Yellowstone with a little bit of everything, from double-black-diamond chutes to a 2.5-mile run called Lazy M to a bunny hill called Miami Beach ($47; But up here, "everything" means more than just skiing downhill; to wit, the National Finals Ski-Joring Races (March 14–15; Skijoring is the sport of skiing while being towed by a dog or a horse. Here in rodeo country, we’re talking horses, of course, which pull skiers through a 700-foot course that includes 20 slalom gates and four jumps in runs against the clock. It’s serious competition but great fun to watch between stints on Lazy M.