By Jill Adler
The timing was perfect. I had nothing going on last weekend and the snow was rapidly melting. If I wanted to yurt, it was now or not-till-next-season. White Pine Touring in Park City operates the Castle Peak Yurt off the Mirror Lake Highway in the Uintas. For $99, you and eight of your closest, smelliest friends can share what’s essentially a domed cabin.
There are four yurts in the Uintas and Castle Peak is one of the more popular ones in the summer as you can drive to within a mile of the door. Wintertime, however, is a whole other burly animal. The snow-covered trail is more than six miles. The 2000 feet of vertical gain, achieved with skis and a 30-pound pack strapped to your shoulders means about six hours of drudgery. For me, that meanthttp://www.saltlakemagazine.com/blog/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gifI might be thumbing a ride on Lizzy’s snowmobile. My boyfriend even bet me that I wouldn’t make it.
Lizzy Sherry answered White Pine’s phone and invited me along on their SheJumps girls’ weekend. I had heard about the organization but had been hesitant to do much more than cyber stalk the website. These girls were scary. The collective membership kicks some serious big mountain butt and everyone seemed to be under 30. Talk about your intimidating cast of characters – founders Lynsey Dyer, Claire Smallwood, and Vanessa Pierce, and active members like Rachael Burks, world champion Nordic jumper Lindsey Van, ski halfpipe champ Jen Hudak, and Alta/Bird Freeride coach Pip Hunt. These athletes and more, established the non-profit to empower and congregate other potentially outdoors-loving girls.
But could I fit in? I mean, yes, I love the outdoors, yes, I climb, ski, kayak, bike, blah blah, blah, but not on that level. Six hours of touring just plain challenges your stamina. I’m not a runner or road cyclist. My mind will feel the pain long before my body does. Plus, I had new Quest sidecountry boots from Salomon that were a size too big.
Still I dug the mission- Jump In (and try something new), Jump Up (challenge yourself to something better) and Jump Out (share it with someone new). So that’s what I did. I joined SheJumps for a weekend of winter camping.
Ironically, it was Lindsey whose feet bled from blisters that sprang up in the first two miles. Like a true Jumper, she ditched her skis, slapped on her approach shoes and walked the rest of the way- with her pack.
I might have been in the same boat as Lindsey if it wasn’t for the suppleness of my Quests. (They are too soft (flexible) for inbounds alpine skiing but if you’re touring for six hours, I can’t imagine a better crossover ski boot.)
In case you were wondering, Lizzy picked up the skis on her next ride up with the food and wood. She basically took care of everything; our proverbial den mother.
Lizzy organized the troop, stocked the yurt with water and wood, cooked up pork and portabello mushroom tacos for dinner and scrambled eggs, potatoes and homemade granola for breakfast. Camping in a yurt is far from roughing it regardless of the time of year. Even the wooden bunks had adequate cushion for a good night’s rest.
By the time Sunday hit us, I had forgotten that we were one big group of women. There was no drama, no crying, no injuries (Lindsey’s feet aside), no getting lost. We got back to the cars around 1 p.m. as a Kamas police officer pulled up to warn us about bears. Then he asked us about Castle Peak. “All you women?” he asked incredulously. “And no male leadership?” Well, Dude, in case you didn’t notice, this was a SheJumps not a HeJumps trip.
We did what we came to do which was bond over two days in the backcountry while learning to tour, camp, dig snowpits and enjoy the outdoors. The bonus? I walked away with 14 new friends with whom I can climb, ski and laugh.
Jill Adler is an award-winning outdoors writer and broadcaster based in Park City, Utah. As a professional skier, rock climber, kayaker, hiker and mom, she goes out of her way to play hard and tell about it. To find out more or to send her a note, follow her on Twitter @pcskigal.