Snooze, Booze and Carve Living large in Oregon's backcountry | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

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Snooze, Booze and Carve Living large in Oregon's backcountry


If you're the kind of skier who likes to earn your turns, then you're no doubt well aware of the overnight options in Oregon's backcountry. But for those who are more accustomed to season passes than mountain passes, there are several options that open Oregon's vast backcountry skiing options through guided trips that include gear rental (minus skis) and support.

The most recent addition is the Three Sisters Backcountry. The yurt and guide business is run by locals Jonas Tarlen and Shane Fox, a couple of diehard backcountry skiers who decided to turn their passion for untracked lines into a business, and business has been good. The huts, now in their second season of operation, are nearly booked for this winter, according to Tarlen who was busy making preparations for the upcoming season when we caught up with him briefly in mid-October. That work included assembling the pair of 20-foot huts above Three Creeks Lake outside Sisters.

The yurts, dubbed "Raven" and "Owl," are located at the base of Tam McArthur Rim, offering access to hundreds of acres of backcountry lines in the Three Sister Wilderness. The huts are available for rental individually or together on weekends throughout the season, which runs roughly from mid-December to mid-April, weather permitting. You can also nab a spot midweek for just $45/night per person with a minimum of two people. Three Sisters also provides a guide service for its customers to help orient them to the terrain that stretches from Tam McArthur to Broken Top. Additional amenities include the option to have your trip fully catered and porter service to ease the burden of packing in your gear. Three Sisters also offers avalanche safety courses, including Level 1 and Level 2 certification.

For those looking for an adventure a little further afield than Central Oregon, Eastern Oregon's Wallowa Mountains offer a pair of options - the Wallowa Alpine Huts and the Wing Ridge Ski Tours, both of which are operated by Connely Brown, a terminally relaxed ski bum who cut his backcountry teeth in the Tetons before making his way to the Wallowas. Brown purchased the Wallowa Alpine Huts a decade ago and more recently acquired the Wing Ridge huts. The difference, according to Brown, who self-identifies in the third person as "CB," is the Wallowa Alpine Huts emphasis on providing a guided experience.

"The difference is the Wallowa Huts are catering to the guided crowd and the Wing Ridge is catering to the DIY crowd," Brown said.

Diehard DIYers, however, are welcome to go it alone in the Wallowa Huts, though first-time visitors are required to use a guide on the first day ($250). Visitors have two options on the Wallowa Hut trips, the original McCully Camp out of Joseph or the newer Norway Basin hut, which is located closer to Halfway, Ore in the southeastern portion of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, an area that Brown describes as the "snowbelt."

Brown recommends that Bend folks consider the Norway hut because of the ability to short circuit the drive by coming east on Hwy 26 through Baker City. It's a distance of approximately 280 miles that can be knocked off in five or six hours, perhaps explaining why business dipped at some of the Wallowa huts after Three Sisters Backcountry huts opened.

But what the hell, getting there is half the fun... road trip!

Besides, Brown promises to provide the best snow in the state.

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