Pioneer Yurt and Fishook Yurt and Hut
Featured Huts of Sun Valley Trekking
Pioneer Yurt and Fishook Yurt are two of the six huts operated by Sun Valley Trekking in the beautiful snow-filled mountains of Central Idaho. These two locations have historical significance in the world of U. S. alpine touring huts, and they give a taste of the offerings of San Valley Trekking’s remarkable infrastructure for enjoying the beauty and thrill of these mountains.
Pioneer Yurt sits on the edge of a lovely alpine meadow at 8,600’ in the Pioneer Mountains in the Sawtooth National Forest in Central Idaho. Located near the towns of Ketchum and Hailey, this fully-equipped yurt — located in a bowl surrounded by Hyndman Peak (12,009’, the highest peak in the Pioneer Mountains), Old Hyndman Peak. (11,755’), Cobb Peak (11,6500), and Peanut Peak (c. 9,600). This is paradise for ski mountaineering groups in winter and a spectacular base camp for hiking, botanizing, and star-gazing in summer.
Sun Valley Trekking has operated Pioneer Yurt since 2006 when it took over from Heli-Ski and tore down the old yurt and erected a new one. The 24’ diameter yurt is equipped with everything you need (just bring a sleeping bag and food) to enjoy this mountain Shangri La. The high ceilings, three large windows, and nicely designed amenities provide a feeling of openness and comfort. The ambiance is simple, rustic and cozy — perfect for a getaway with family and/or friends.
The amenities are thoughtfully honed over years of experience in mountain hospitality. The yurt sleeps up to 16 people in four bunk beds, each with comfortable plastic covered mattresses. The wood stove keeps the yurt warm. There are lots of clothes lines and hooks for hanging wet clothing to dry. Water for drinking and cooking is from snow melt in winter and from nearby Hyndman Creek in summer (gravity filter provided). The kitchen has a three burner propane stove and all the implements needed for cooking and eating, including a small BBQ. There are tables for indoor and outdoor eating and lounging, and foldable chairs for reading and sitting in the meadow or under the stars. The Goal Zero solar collector system feeds a battery which powers lights, lanterns, a speaker system, and recharges GPS units and personal devices. A selection of games and reading material, along with the hut log, provide quiet entertainment options.
Pioneer Yurt is 3-4 miles as the crow flies (much farther by trail) from the historic Pioneer Cabin, the first backcountry ski hut in Sun Valley. In 1938 the Bavarian ski guides and instructors brought to Idaho to start the Alpine Ski Touring School at Sun Valley told their employers that the place to learn alpine ski touring is in the mountains, not in the valley. They took over an old mining cabin and called it Pioneer Cabin, where they established one of the early alpine ski schools in the USA. The original hut is no longer in use, but is a popular day hike destination for its fabulous panoramic views.
Fishook Hut and Yurt sit at 6,800’ next to meandering Fishook creek and beautiful meadows on the edge of the Sawtooth Mountains wilderness area. The jagged mountains rise above the meadow, with spectacular views of Thompson Peak (the highest in the Sawtooth Mountain). Fishook has the same level of amenities as Pioneer, described above, and is distinguished by three features: topography, history, type of accommodation, and a hot tub.
The approach to Fishook is a gentle four mile tour. The lower elevation and flat terrain are ideal for Nordic skiers and snowshoers. Advanced skiers and snowboarders can find fantastic downhill terrain in the peaks above Fishook Valley: Horstman, Thompson, and Williams.
The 16’ diameter Mongolian yurt is nicely appointed and sleeps 8, and is joined together by a lodge-pole pine framed walkway to a pioneer style wall tent that sleeps 6. The wall tent, the site of cooking and dining, is appointed with colorful panels and a gorgeous fabric doorway. There are two covered outhouses. The piece de resistance is a wood fired hot tub.
Historically, Fishook was the site of what Joe Leonard, the guide who started the business that Sun Valley Trekking built upon, claims is the first yurt in North America, built in the 1970’s. Whether this claim is true (there is a competing claim in Sun Valley lore), staying here gives the visitor a sense of being part of the history of alpine huts/yurts in the USA.
Joe and Francie St. Onge, owners of Sun Valley Trekking, have developed a remarkable series of backcountry ski huts and a local and international guiding business.
They offer guided trips to their huts (including porters and food service if desired) as well as self-guided experiences. Most of their business is from return visitors; first-time visitors in winter are required to use a guide for the first day.
This is a serious, well-run backcountry ski destination, and appropriate skills are needed. I visited in summer and can’t wait to return for the winter experience!
Details on hut rental and reservations can be made on the Sun Valley Trekking website .
Post by Sam Demas, September 2017
Sam Demas, September 2017