You always remember your first time in a remote lodge surrounded by endless ridge lines of snow-laden peaks with nothing but the starlit sky to light your way. This is where you find your true mountain self, away from the white noise of thousands of skiers and boarders all trying to make their way down a piste that was prepared by a piston groomer all night while those thousands of skiers and boarders danced to loud music before passing out to do it all again.
If lift lines and big crowds do your head in then head to the backcountry where no one can hear you scream. You don't have to be an expert skier (though it does help) to enjoy the great mountain winter outdoors. Rustic walk-in mountain huts and luxury fly-in remote lodges provide a style of accommodation for every type of skier and boarder from ski bum to mogul.
This is my remote lodge bucket list (though I have already ticked some off, not that I'm boasting, well, OK, I am).
This is remote ... Arctic Circle-style remote. You'll find the pine timber and grass roof cabin on the shores of the Norwegian Fjordland. Arrive by boat, bed down after a gourmet supper then wake to a fresh Scandinavian breakfast and kit up. Guests board boats in the morning and are transported with a guide to "skin" up the side of mountains and ski back down to snow-covered beaches only to be picked up by boat and taken elsewhere to do it all again. Late season skiers can ski under the sun till midnight.
Rifugio Regina Margherita, Monterosa, Italy
If Hitchcock were to have made a horror film in the Alps, it would have been at Rifugio Regina Margherita. The mountain "hut" clings to the edge of a rock face at over 4500 metres' oxygen sucking altitude. If you could catch your breath you would do it at the mere sight of the cables used to secure the hut to the mountain. One snap and, well, you don't want to go there. The good news is that meals are served if you are lucky enough to stay here. Just as well, as you won't find a Seven Eleven for miles.
You'll find The Observatory 20 kilometres from Telluride in Colorado. Many skidoo in, though you could walk in or ski tour as well. Bring your own oxygen because the backcountry cabin sits at almost 3500 metres. Built by locals in the 1970s, The Observatory has a "what goes on at the observatory stays at the observatory" reputation and a clear sky view under moonlight that will take your the oxygen you brought with you and that breath away. I can't tell you anymore or they will kill me.
The only way in to Chatter Creek Lodge is by helicopter. The log cabins here have been built by lumberjack hands and house guests book winters ahead to secure a bed for a week of cat or heli skiing. Be warned, they don't call it Cheater Creek for nothing. The crew here are fun loving but safety conscious (take that how you will) and guide guests through some of the most majestic terrain in a region known for, well, majestic terrain. Leonardo DiCaprio stayed here while filming Inception – you can take a ride on the camouflage skidoos used in the film.
You'll need deep pockets to get to Whare Kea Chalet. Not only is it accessible by private helicopter only but you also need to be a guest at the uber luxe Whare Kea Lodge on the shores of Lake Wanaka to spend a night up here ($NZ500-$NZ1670 [$430-$1440] a night, but dinner is included). When the weather does present a clear break, pile into the chopper with your private guide and butler who will attend to every need in the mountain-top chalet with views of Mount Aspiring National Park. Expect central heating, hot showers and comfortable bedding as well as floor-to-ceiling windows that will leave your eyes glued to the glass.
Skiers attempting the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt will need at some stage to bed down at Refuge Vignettes. To get there they will need to navigate an icy path and steel stairway in ski boots and if they survive they can then visit the longest drop toilet they hope to never fall down into.
Not far from Aspen sits a series of backcountry huts that intrepid folk can ski between with other intrepid folk. Accommodation is basic so bring a pack with the essentials and take a guide from Aspen Expeditions to ensure your last moments are not in a tree well or avalanche. You can access Margy's, which incidentally was named after the wife of former US secretary of state Robert McNamara, by a 15 kilometre cross country ski trail. There's a choice of private room, bunkroom or dorm and views of the Elk Mountains.
You have a choice when you arrive at Neuhornbachhaus. Hike up or catch a cat ride. Either way, once you reach the Austrian ski touring lodge you can immerse yourself in hearty Austrian fodder and hang with fellow skiers in the sauna. Up to 60 guests can stay at any one time, in the lodge not the sauna.
Sol Mountain Lodge, British Columbia, Canada
Sol Mountain Lodge was built in 2004 by a local ski guide and woodsman. The lodge is self sufficient with 10 rooms and sleeps 20 or more and comes with a sauna. Add a full service kitchen and bar, ACMG licensed guides and a series of multi-night ski trips including one for first timers to the delights of backcountry huts and backcountry skiing. Entry is by helicopter but ski trips each day are done by leg power so train before you arrive.
Three words. Rooftop hot tub. The Monashee Lodge is one of 12 remote lodges operated by the original commercial heli-skiing company CMH (Canadian Mountain Holidays). It sleeps 48, is pure luxury and comes with a climbing wall, exercise room and games room as well as a bar and dining room. Be warned, the skiing here is expert terrain and you'd better be fast to keep up. Helicopters take groups up to untracked virgin snow daily.
Do you have a bucket list remote lodge you want to visit before you die? Have you been to any of these or have others you'd like to share? Post a comment on the blog below.
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