A Week in the Beautiful Idaho Pioneer Range

Idaho? It's unreal.

Until this past March, I had never ventured into the state of Idaho. I’d heard rumors of small towns and beautiful sweeping mountains. These rumors were constantly confirmed by my friends who were born and raised in the state. From what I could tell, it was the place to be. A hidden gem of backcountry skiing compared to the frequently skinned tracks of the Colorado Rockies, where of which I currently reside.

So the question is, did all of this talk of beautiful mountains with few a people match up to what it actually was? Yes, yes it did.

Sean Fearon charging a beautiful line on a DEEP day

On March 24th, 2017 a group of sixteen backcountry skiers from Colorado, including myself, headed north to the mountains of the Pioneer Range. The plan? Stay in the Pioneer Yurt, which is managed and owned by Sun Valley Trekking, for a full week. Waking up every morning to discover new lines and push our limits.

The Pioneer Yurt has entry to some phenomenal terrain. There was access to Alaskan like lines, low angle tree skiing, and beautiful couloirs. To say the least, this area is a essentially a backcountry skiers playground. While the terrain is amazing, there should be no forgetting the quality of the yurt. Equipped with a full kitchen, full size bunk beds with pads, wood burning stove, full Goal Zero solar system, and endless backcountry skiing magazines and books. The best part? The wood stove sauna which can fit about five to six of your best buds, clothing optional.

The yurt, tucked away in the Idaho pines.

The journey to the yurt was quite a fun one. Since our group was a little on the larger side, we had two sleds rope tow us and our food in for the week. Oh and our excessive amount cheap liquor. From the trailhead, it’s a six mile skin to the yurt if you’re in a smaller party. However, if you’re in a large group, it’s more of the likes of a speedy death tow across multiple creeks and dirt patches. But hey, it sure does get your legs warm.

When looking at a map from Caltopo, the amount of skiable peaks, ridges, and bowls is almost overwhelming. The most notable and highest peak in the region is Hyndman Peak, coming in at a glorious 12,008ft. This peak has some phenomenal lines and is a pretty easy approach given good weather and snow conditions. It’s also the peak that is the direct view from the open door outhouse. Pure bliss.

The breakfast view. Just enough sight to read the snow and wind conditions while staying warm by the fire.

Another very prominent and beautiful peak is Cobb Peak, which is located right outside the door of the yurt. This peak stretches out of the land in a very dramatic fashion, leaving your jaw dropped every time you walk outside of the door.

Cobb Peak during the everyday alpine glow.

Notable my favorite area in the region is Big Basin, located about 3.5 miles southeast of the yurt. Upon finishing the gentle uphill skin, you’re greeted by massive couloirs and some beautiful tree skiing. When it dumps and the peaks are too dangerous for the day, head here. There were points during the trip that we’d head over when there wasn’t much snow anywhere and still find knee deep lines.

Sam Van Dresser ripping through an untouched slope in Big Basin.

This may not apply to every trip here, but the tendency of the weather seemed to be pretty cloudy in the mornings, typically clearing up to mostly sunny by Noon. Throughout our week at the yurt, we had a total of around 13 inches of fresh dry snow. We were blessed with two powder, three blue bird, and another two wonderful corn days.

Mid-day boot packing can lead to some pretty nice views.

All in all, this yurt trip was one to remember. Filled with great friends and some of the best skiing I’ve had in awhile. If you have the opportunity to come check out this location, just do so. Also a little pro tip, make the joke about corn on Cobb Peak, you’ll either get a laugh or pushed off the skin track by your friends.

Lolly Steuart taking in the afternoon views.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Will McKayExplorer

Photographer, Writer, and Filmmaker.