Hut skiing has always been on my radar, but there is so much accessible good skiing locally, with and without a sled, that I’ve never acted on the impulse to book a trip. Plus, there’s the group factor. You have to assemble a compatible group of 8 or 9 people, be able to make decisions as a group and live happily as a group for the duration of the trip. Happiness and large recreational groups are generally mutually exclusive in my experience and I prefer recreating solo or with a few other like-minded people. The one absolutely reliable companion I have is our chocolate Lab who is always eager to go anywhere with me, agrees with every decision I make and responds enthusiastically to the multitude of pithy and incisive comments which issue from my mouth with such astonishing regularity that even I am amazed.
Granted, Labs aren’t known for their discriminating tastes, but that’s not the point. The point being that Rocket and I get along just fine so why would I screw up a perfectly good day by mingling with a bunch of potentially annoying humans?
Except….last year I was invited to go on a 7-day hut trip with my backcountry friends from Missoula. I had been hearing them rave about Dezaiko Lodge near Prince George, B.C. for several years and despite my reservations about the group thing I accepted. As luck would have it, I came down with the flu the day of departure and was forced to cancel. This year I was invited again and gave it another shot.
The drill is this: you drive about 750 miles northwest of Missoula to Prince George (I fully expect to be lectured about mileage rounding by some random “scientist”) and drive 1 ½ hours into the bush to a whistle stop called Sinclair Mills. From there you board a helicopter for the flight east into Dezaiko Lodge in the Dezaiko Range.
From the lodge, skiable terrain was accessed by skinning. We were a self-guided group but Brian and Carol, a Seattle couple, have been going there for about 20 years and know the area like the back of their hands.
The term “lodge” is a stretch at best, since it’s more like a cabin. It consists of the main building, which might be 20x24’ plus a full upstairs where guests sleep in what is euphemistically called “dormitory style”. The literal translation of that phrase is “no privacy”. There is also an entryway, drying room and sauna attached to the front of the building, plus a back bedroom where the owners sleep.
Pretty cozy quarters for a group of 9 skiers, plus Bonnie, the owner/guide/cook. The first couple of nights I wasn’t sure if I was going to make a positive adaptation to all that forced intimacy, but by the third day something finally clicked and I made the mental adjustment. It was a pretty easy group to adapt to, everyone was chill, conversation was good and no one ever got their nose bent out of joint or their tiny and precious little feelings stepped on.
The terrain potentially has any kind of skiing you’d want, from full-on steeps to safer glades and slopes lower down on the mountain. They’d gotten a good dump the day before our arrival which provided decent skiing for the first 2 ½ days, but on the third night the wind began to blow and the next morning everything that was exposed to the wind was crusted over. That prompted a full day of easy touring, followed by a search for soft snow that ultimately revealed decent skiing south of the cabin. We spent the final two days yoyoing that area. There was a little untracked snow left for the group following ours, but not much.
In the end, my fears of being overwhelmed by a lack of personal space weren’t realized. Overall, we had reasonably good skiing in an area that in the right conditions would provide phenomenal skiing. As usual when you’re playing outside, you make the most of what you get.