Simplicity. I think there’s something to be said about living a simple life, so I often wonder if I was born in the wrong decade, hell, maybe even the wrong century. Those Luddite thoughts always seem to bubble up when I’m on a backcountry yurt trip. For me, staying a night or two at a yurt in the mountains isn’t just about skiing powder right out the front door – it’s also about chopping wood, melting snow for water, and running to a frozen outhouse under a cascade of night stars. My grandfather nicknamed me Jeremiah, so I fancy myself of the Johnson sort, red beard, flannel and a love for mountains. Like a child whose existence revolves around summer break, my winters revolve around yurt trips. It’s a rare chance to escape from the stupidity of modern life, far from ridiculous, annoying, hateful things like cubicles, traffic, and hashtags.
Each expedition begins the same way: it’s autumn, and I send frantic emails or phone calls to a yurt operator, which is usually followed by relief that my requested dates are available. A flurry of text messages go out to backcountry-skiing friends and a bona-fide posse of mountain degenerates is formed. Fast forward a few months after snowfall and mercury have both fallen and the yurt is hopefully waiting with equal depths fresh-cut wood piles and fresh-fallen blankets of powder. En route, the SUV rides low under the weight of ski gear, beer and softshell-clad bodies. Dry sagebrush valleys give way to pine and ice where roads grow twisted around the rock of mountain passes. #holla #roadtrip
With each progression of the trip, modernity is stripped away. We lose cell service in the canyon so I can no longer #instagram on my phone. Then we ditch the car on a dirt pull-out alongside a fresh plowed highway. We shuck off tense muscles caused by daily stress as we skin upward into quiet glades. The weight of responsibility is replaced by the weight of a heavy pack on our shoulders, and the sound of the city is transformed into the music of skis on snow. #instamood
We race the setting sun to reach a shelter that’s miles away, tucked into an aspen forest, hidden beneath snow save for a single, metal chimney that signals our arrival. We immediately get to work turning a cold yurt into our home. The woodstove is fed and lit, sleeping bags are laid out on roshambo-chosen bunk beds, and I get to enjoy my favorite part as I split firewood under a cobalt sky while the smell of dinner cooking on a propane stove wafts out from the rough-hewn front door. #ahhhhh
At night I awake to the sounds of a crackling fire, wind beating against the yurt’s canvas roof, and the snores of my best friends. Content, I fall between wakefulness and sleep in anticipation of powder skiing come morning. #notreallysleepy
Sunrise is accompanied by hissing Jet Boils for coffee and instant oatmeal while bacon sizzles in a pan. Breakfast preparations always make us late for skiing, but we don’t care since there’s no commute to the ski resort, no competition for powder turns, and there’s no way we’re skiing without bacon in our bellies #foodporn. Happy and full, we fill packs with extra layers and flasks #ullrbait, apply skins to skis, and break trail through a few inches of sparkling, newborn snow that fell overnight. #chashingfreshies
We immediately lose our sense of time, save for the rhythmic ticking of ski-boot pendulums swinging in tech-binding toe pieces. We log hours by vertical gained, and distance by turns made. On yurt trips, even #badskiingisgoodskiing, because it’s all we have. There’s nothing else to do but ski, so ski we do.
As the day darkens and cold seeps into our tired bodies, we go for one more lap before flat-tracking back to the yurt. Yesterday’s suffering while hauling heavy beer on our backs is #totallyworthit as those booze-filled cans provide social primer for drinking time around a hand-made table. We play cards and recount the day’s mishaps and triumphs that are always completely overblown #itcomesfromthecup. After we’re more than a few drinks in, food is served on scratched dinnerware that’s been used and abused for a decade or more.
Here’s the thing about yurt trips: everyone eats like kings. There’s something about staying at a yurt that compels folks to whip up the most delicious, gourmet meal possible, despite the lack of facilities, or stomachs large enough to contain it all #burritobaby. Dishes like open-faced hanger steak sandwiches with caramelized onions, chicken masala, and enough gourmet cheese and summer sausages to open up a corner deli are par-for-the-course and consumed on the same night. Even dessert is delectable when somebody inevitably reveals a crumb-topped apple crisp sprinkled with dried cherries. Damn, I swear I eat better in yurts than I do at home, except when it’s my night to cook, because I’m the doofus who always brings instant noodles and a can of spam. #notafoodie
Our final day at the yurt is mostly #lowkey. Tired from #killingit the day before, and nursing hangovers brought to you by #toomuchwhiskey, we slowly skin up our old track for a few morning runs before packing up our mountain lives. After cleaning up and splitting wood for the next group, I longingly look at the yurt one last time before literally descending back into reality. But in the end, my mind is lighter than my pack #toomuchwhiskey, my legs feel like jelly donuts crammed into ski boots #toomuchwhiskey and the ski out provides a bit of fun as I carve small powder turns by jumping out of established ski tracks along the forest’s edge. #sidefluff
Back at the highway, passersby are witness to a #fistbumpconvention because we’re so happy to see our post-trip beers didn’t freeze in the car. Foamy brewskis in hand, we toast to another successful mountain adventure as ski boots are peeled off, crusty base-layers are replaced by wonderful cotton, and the car’s heater blasts our shivering souls. Back at home, modern life never feels as good as it does under a hot shower (although a hot tub would be soooo much better.) #wishiwasrich
Yes, there’s something to be said about the simple life, even if I only live it for a few days. It’s a reminder of what’s important beyond the static of my 21st century existence that hopefully stays with me when I feel bombarded by computer screens and text notifications. So when I confront those annoying, hateful cubicles, traffic and hashtags, I can just #rememberthegoodtimes of the #yurtlife. #ahhhhh.