This article was brought to you by our friends at INNO Racks, the company behind sturdy car ski racks you can rely on season after season to help you reach your favorite slopes, winter cabins, and the freshest of powder.
Backcountry skiers know there are few pleasures quite like first tracks across brand new powder. The quest for freshies has drawn many a skier to boondock in wintery parking lots before unloading their gear in the dark for dawn patrol runs. The satisfying crunch of untouched snow has inspired winter athletes to travel by helicopter to drop onto the toughest, most inaccessible tracks, miles above the earth.
There’s another way, however, to escape the resort crowds and get your backcountry skiing fix: winter cabins where you can ski in and ski out to your heart’s content.
Miss the Ski Resort Crowds at these 8 Winter Cabins
Winter cabins, yurts, huts, and stations are available in skiing destinations across the country. Venturing off the resorts for backcountry skiing requires specific skills and knowledge that keep you safe in avalanche territory. But for those who are properly equipped and prepared, these destinations are truly magical. Most are designed to accommodate a group, so fill up your car ski rack and make for the trailhead. Last one to these ski-in campsites is a rotten egg!
1. Snow Peak Cabin near Republic, Washington
High above the Kettle Mountain Range in the Colville National Forest sits Snow Peak Cabin, accessible year-round thanks to its proximity to Sherman Pass, the highest year-round mountain pass in Washington state. Slip on your skis and skins at the Kettle Crest Trailhead and work your way across approximately five miles of terrain to reach this cozy destination. It’s wise to make reservations far in advance.
The Dyrt camper and avid backcountry skier Anna T. breaks down some of the many amenities that await. “The cabin is cozy and well stocked with cots, chairs, pots and pans, firewood, and solar lights! All you really need to pack in besides the basic necessities are your sleeping bag, ski apres, and a good water filter.” She adds that, “There’s also some good skiing near the cabin and at Sherman Pass proper near where you park, as well as plenty of conservative terrain options if the avalanche forecast dictates that for you.”
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2. Black Mountain Cabin near Jackson, New Hampshire
Less than half a mile from the summit of Black Mountain, this cozy cabin offers views of Wildcat Ridge, Carter Dome, Carter Notch, and Mount Washington. It gets props from locals like The Dyrt Ranger Jack N., who says this spot is his favorite getaway thanks to, “tons of good trails, birding, skiing, snowshoeing right out the front door.”
In addition to the off-piste 1.4-mile trail with 1,200 foot elevation gain to reach the Black Mountain Cabin, and the .4 mile trail to the summit, you can also enjoy the nearby groomed trails at Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. If you ski down the mountain and head into Jackson, New Hampshire proper, grab a drink at the Shovel Handle Pub, named for the early type of ski lift invented to service local resorts in the 1930’s — when the Black Mountain Cabin was first built.
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3. McKeever Cabin in the Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan
Unlike many Forest Service Cabins that date back to the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, this winter cabin is quite new, built in the early 1990s. It overlooks McKeever Lake, and is accessible by just a mile of skiing in the winter months. McKeever Cabin sits directly on the McKeever Hills Ski Trail, which is groomed for cross-country skiing. Those interested in backcountry skiing will enjoy the more rugged Brunos Run Trail nearby.
You’ll be in the countryside of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, not terribly far from Hiawatha National Forest and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There’s lots of things to do in Munising, Michigan, too, including winter events like the Moose Lodge Fishing Derby, Hiawatha Yoopers Pond Hockey Classic, the Michigan Ice Fest, and the UP 200 & Midnight Run Sled Dog Races.
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4. Battle Ridge Cabin near Bozeman, Montana
Bozeman is known as a backcountry skiing haven and outdoor mecca with year-round activities to please enthusiasts of all stripes. Not far outside the city is this pretty little cabin built in 1938. The Battle Ridge Cabin is tucked into the Gallatin National Forest giving you plenty of opportunities not only to ski but also to get a glimpse of the great north’s wildlife. You can ski up to a bucolic meadow surrounded by evergreens with unreal views of the surrounding Bridger Mountains.
“There is a clear small spring creek you can use for water but you MUST treat it or use Sawyer or LifeStraw. Ice cold and delicious.” Once you get your water and you’re ready to start cooking, you’re in for a real treat. The cookstove is a big old cast iron Monarch model that is straight out of Little House on the Prairie or an old Western. And at just a half-mile distance from the Battle Ridge Trailhead, you can really bring along a feast even if you’re coming and going under your own power.” — The Dyrt camper April K.
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5. Elwood Cabin near Pagosa Springs, Colorado
If your idea of an ideal ski vacation involves equal parts fresh powder and curling up in the cabin with a good book, you’re in luck. Colorado has no shortage of winter cabins for skiiers, but Elwood Cabin in the San Juan Mountains is an especially relaxing place to unplug. If you do want to get out and about eventually, however, the cabin is near Summitville, a classic western ghost town populated in 1870 during the gold rush. The mines here were active until the 1990s, but now the area has far more peace and quiet to offer than the bustle of the Wild West.
“I have stayed in this cabin many times. It is located 18 miles off the paved road (HWY 160), there is no reception of any type… HEAVEN!!! The only thing you need is bedding, food, water and some reading materials.” — The Dyrt camper Jim B.
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6. Pear Lake Winter Hut in Sequoia National Park, California
Pear Lake Winter Hut is one of the most popular winter cabins in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. During the summer, it’s used as an actual ranger station, but reopens to the public from December to April. The cabin on is often booked six months in advance through a lottery system.
Located 2,000 feet and six miles above Wolverton, you need to have serious backcountry skiing chops to traverse this tough trail, where it’s not uncommon to experience white-outs and avalanche conditions. The parks service recommends beginners steer clear, but if you think you’re up for the challenge, the scenery, incredible powder, and undisturbed freshies will be your well-deserved reward. So will the wood-burning pellet stove, the composting toilet, and a kitchen complete with propane burners.
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7. Basin Station Cabin in West Yellowstone, Montana
In the summer, anglers love this corner of Montana for its trout fishing in Hebgen Lake. In fact, there’s all sorts of wildlife to admire, including grizzly bears, bison, elk, and pronghorn, as well as otters in the South Fork of Madison River. Depending on the time of year, you might be able to use the classic Old West cook stove for frying up a dinner that you catch yourself.
Up until December, you can hike into the Basin Station Cabin, or even reach it from the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. In winter, though, you’ll have to cover the same landscape by snowshoe or skis. At any time of year, you’re just nine miles from the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, making this a great base for all kinds of outdoor adventures.
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8. Beaver Creek Cabin near Lowman, Idaho
Poised halfway between Boise and the Sawtooth Mountains, this winter cabin is adjacent to the delightfully named Whoop-Um-Up Park-N-Ski Area. Here you’ll find a spread of groomed beginner to intermediate trails up to six miles long, all run by the Idaho City Recreation Department. Whether you take advantage of that network or simply park at the Whoop-Um-Up lot before skiing to the Beaver Creek Cabin (just 1.5 miles up the Pilgrim Trail), you can buy Park-N-Ski permits from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation for $7.50. All the revenue goes to keeping the trails groomed and open for cross-country skiers.
At both the titular Beaver Creek right there and the Whoop-Um-Up Creek, you’re likely to encounter beavers (or at least evidence of beaver) as well as other wildlife like mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, chukars, wild turkeys, eagles, and maybe even a glimpse of a black bear or wolf pack. If you’re new to backcountry skiing, this is a great place for beginner-friendly conditions. And if you’re a local who gets hooked, season passes for Whoop-Um-Up are just $25 dollars. With a deal like that, you’ll want to leave your car ski rack ready to go all winter long.
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- Pagosa Riverside Campground, Pagosa Springs, CO