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Melt water, all the time
This most mundane task reminds you of one of the reasons you’re yurting to begin with: to experience a slower, more rustic lifestyle. Melting snow humidifies the air in the yurt and keeps your skin from drying up when the woodstove is roaring. It also allows you to clean dirty dishes and provides water to drink when you’re out on the shred. Never stop making water, and leave some for the next arrivals. Fact: One gallon of snow makes about one cup of water.
Designate a Yurt Mom
Our Yurt Mom is a veteran yurter. In sailor parlance, she’d be known as a plankowner, or an original member of this annual expedition. We Alpine yurters know that after a day of skinning up hillsides with 17 switchbacks and sweating to the oldies and freezing and sweating some more, we will return to find a fire in the stove and an inside temperature equivalent to springtime in Phoenix.
Like your own mom, the Yurt Mom is to be respected at all times. (Yurt Mom, it should be noted, isn’t a gender-specific position. Yurt Moms can be, and often are, dudes.) Sure, the Yurt Mom might hang your mittens to dry and organize maps, smokables, mixers, batteries and snacks on the communal table, but that doesn’t mean you should expect her to. If she asks for a beer, you get her one. A smoke? Yes ma’am. An armload of wood? Get two. If she wants you to sleep next to the much-colder wall of the yurt at night, go on and do it. Personally, I’ve never traveled overnight in the backcountry without a Yurt Mom and I never will.
Make yourself useful
Yurt Mom can’t do everything. Be the one who tends the fire. Figure out the stove’s idiosyncrasies. Keep everyone warm and dry by hugging your yurtmates, and hugging them often. Make sure the party goes late into the night. (“Late” in yurt terms can be anywhere from 8 to 11 p.m. While others crawl inside their fart sacks to prep for a day of tough skinning, the yurt party patrol might continue to blast Girl Talk after passing out with a full beer in my, err, his hands.) Lastly, there is the yurt alarm clock. This person can wake up the yurt using one of four methods: vomiting, snoring, farting, or otherwise disturbing the peace. Our alarm clock chose all four on various mornings, but he’s a bit of an overachiever.
On our second night, the Alpine yurt was responsible for hosting a Super Bowl party, despite the absence of any television or radio to broadcast the game. While everyone else rode all day, our Yurt Mom dug out a sunken bar in the snow, replete with seating and buried blue and red lights. The effect of the lights was similar to those in a Berlin discothèque: warm and erotic. We called her creation the Fire and Ice Bar.
Nearby we built a kicker shaped with a throne at its lip. The landing ended up short, flat, dotted with small trees, and above a steep drop into tightly packed brush. In other words, it was not ideal.
We passed around a “cheese log,” which was a freshly split piece of pine used as a platter for crackers, sausage and cheese. We drank. We drank more. As the evening went on, and bravery increased, two intrepid yurters eyed the kicker. After a couple of practice runs, we lit a fire marking the kicker’s edges. (For the safety-concerned, residents of the Lupine yurt are real firefighters and oversaw the pyrotechnics.)
With Foreigner’s “Jukebox Hero” buzzing from the Fire and Ice Bar’s DJ booth, Rob Duff and Walker Hunter took turns flinging themselves from the kicker, which was aflame with lighter fluid. Spectators watched from the throne as each passed over them, nearly scalping their lids. Only the cold air of the clear, star-filled sky made us return to our respective yurts to gear up for another day of riding.
Not everyone should build a kicker, but everyone should build something. Create a snowman or a phallus. Be sure to leave your mark on the hill for the next group.
Also functional as nose plugs if the aroma inside your yurt becomes ripe.
Make some alone time
At dawn, the outhouses are a joy, and a welcome respite from the claustrophobic clutter and personalities inside the yurt. The outhouses lack doors, but that’s a good thing. Each yurt’s outhouse faces in the direction of the winter sunrise to the southeast, with spectacular views of the Bob Marshall Wilderness and distant peaks in the Scapegoat Wilderness. The chatter of squirrels and whoosh of bird wings is all that you can hear. Sure, the seat is cold and maybe even a bit damp by the time your body heat warms it up, but the sun crests over the nearby ridge and fills the valley below with the kind of golden light usually reserved for wheat fields in cereal commercials.