The remote and beautiful backcountry wilderness of Yosemite is absolutely attainable—if skiing 10 miles to a backcountry hut is your kind of adventure. Ostrander Hut is an A-frame classic built from oak and stone in the 1940s, complete with a wood-burning stove, kitchen, and 25 bunks spread out on two stories. Set 100 feet from Ostrander Lake (pictured) at the bottom of a bowl surrounded by jagged peaks, this winter-only destination has housed many a backcountry skier. But make no bones about it, it’s not easy humping your backpack 10 miles through the snow to get there—including a final climb up Heart Attack Hill. The experience is all BYO: food, stove, and emergency bivvy. (Lest you have to sleep in the snow on the journey out, allow plenty of time to get the hut.) Skilled backcountry travelers can take the Horizon Ridge route; newbies and intermediates should opt for the Bridalveil Creek route. But the prize is worth it: pure solitude and a historical roof over your head. Ostrander Hut even has a supply of ice skates for when the lake freezes over. The fun part is designating the person to check the strength of the ice. Rock, paper, scissors. Go wild.
BONUS: On the ski back down Horizon Ridge you can see a sublime wintery landscape with Half Dome as a fixture along the way.
The trip to Ostrander can be strenuous and should be undertaken by people with at least intermediate skills and in good physical shape. Reservations at Ostrander are very tough to get, but persistence, patience, and flexibility can get you in (folks who didn’t enter the lottery reservation can still book a stay). Here’s info on reservations and the hut. To make reservations by phone, call 209-379-5161. (Don’t be discouraged if the line is busy; they handle a lot of calls!) The cost starts at $35 per person, per night for non-Yosemite Association members. For information on what to bring and how to get to Ostrander Hut, visit their Web site. Like any backcountry winter outing, be sure to have a good map, compass, and gear to spend the night in the snow should you not make it to the hut. Hut photo courtesy of Yosemite Conservancy. Lake photo by Weekend Sherpa.