While some people might prefer warm weather over spring break, there’s a select few who prefer the exact opposite.
Local and winter sport enthusiasts join to spend their spring break skiing the backcountry of the Aneroid Basin in the Wollowa Mountains, Oregon.
From March 12 through March 15, the University of Idaho Outdoor Program offers an outdoor backcountry ski trip to provide students and community members the opportunity to experience skiing in a unique location.
Having been a part of the UI program since the ‘70s, Outdoor Program Director Trevor Fulton said the trip continues to make its mark on all of the students who attend.
“It’s been a long standing trip in the program, and it’s one of our most advanced trips in the program, which is very contrary to most of our other programs being beginner friendly,” Fulton said.
The trip provides a unique experience that most students are able to take a lot away from, Fulton said.
Throughout the four-day trip, Fulton said individuals spend their nights in an old mining cabin, located at a private inholding in the wilderness.
With seven miles and 3,000 feet until camp, Fulton said reaching the location in the basin is the most difficult part of the trip. He said it takes the majority of the first day getting into camp. The rest of the time is spent skiing and learning about safety.
“We spend the next two-and-a-half more days riding in the back country, practicing safe travel techniques, practicing the rescue and safety stuff that folks are supposed to have for good practice and that educational component,” Fulton said. “Ultimately, we’re having a good time and hopefully seeing a unique, wonderful area.”
Graduate student Patrick Mahoney, who’s worked with the Outdoor Program since 2011, has been on the trip three times and said he enjoys the peaceful ski environment.
“From the first day on, the mission is just wake up, make breakfast and go skiing,” Mahoney said.
There are different reasons why the Outdoor Program chose the Aneroid Basin as the location to host the trip, Fulton said. One reason being it is the largest terrain within a reasonable drive, sitting three hours from UI’s campus.
Fulton said another reason is because the terrain is ideal for skiing and there are many resources to forecast avalanches.
The historical relationship between the camp and the university is another reason the location is chosen, Fulton said.
“It’s one of those traditions in the program,” Fulton said.
To ensure the trip takes place, Mahoney said the Outdoor Program provides a service project at the camp in September. During the project, volunteers cut wood and get everything ready for winter.
Fulton and Mahoney said the trip is unique in the way it requires previous ski experience and the completion of prerequisites.
The majority of trips hosted by the Outdoor Program are welcome for beginners, Fulton said.
“For this particular trip, we require that folks know how to ski or snowboard and then that they have some sort of formal avalanche safety training,” Fulton said.
These prerequisite programs are offered by the Outdoor Program throughout the school year, Fulton said.
“It does require a certain technical skillset,” Mahoney said. “We teach all of those skills as well.”
To ensure the safety of every individual in the trip, Fulton said the Outdoor Program requires a baseline set of skills to attend the trip.
“It is complex terrain in a mountainous environment,” Fulton said.
Savannah Cardon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @savannahlcardon