We persuaded our backcountry guru Andy Malton - from thegemsstock - to put together his top recommendations for places to stay well off the beaten track. Backcountry huts, refuges, retreats... whatever you want to call them here are the best:
Spending a few nights in a backcountry hut is a great way to disconnect from the normal world and become immersed in the mountains. Plus it’s the best way to guarantee fresh tracks and access that zone you’ve always looked out at from the resort. Some of these huts are pretty basic and require you to take your own cooking and sleeping equipment, some are more like backcountry hotels and provide a fully catered and comfortable experience. So next time it feels like you’re spending more time in lift queues than sinking pow turns, grab your splitboard and snow shoes and get in deep.
Argentiere Refuge – Chamonix, France
The Argentiere Refuge is situated on the Argentiere Glacier and is surrounded by some of the biggest peaks in the Mont Blanc Massif. The refuge is often used as a starting point to access some of the gnarliest big mountain lines in snowboarding, as well as being a regular stop on the Haute Route – a classic splitboard tour through the Alps from Chamonix to Zermatt. The hut is accessed off the top lift of the Grands Montets and pretty much as soon as you strap-in, you’re in glacial terrain. Therefore unless you have the skills, hire a mountain guide, there are plenty based in Chamonix.
Grand St Bernard Hospice - Switzerland
The Grand St Bernard Hospice is a full on working monastery set on the border between Switzerland and Italy. There’s a museum in the hospice that oozes alpine history, along with the usual dorm rooms, bar and basic restaurant. A monastery might not sound like the usual place to spend the night in the mountains but the place is actually extremely popular with backcountry snowboarders due to the easy access and epic terrain just a short skin or hike from the hospice.
Journeyman Lodge – Whistler Backcountry, BC
More of a backcountry chalet than a hut, Journeyman Lodge is located at the end of the Callaghan Valley, a few miles down the road from Whistler. Despite the fact that it lies deep in the BC Mountains, it is in fact a pretty plush place to stay with private rooms, a sauna and a games room. The Lodge is surrounded by some incredible terrain and the area gets even bigger snowfalls than neighbouring Whistler. The combination of deep snow, big alpine bowls and perfectly spaced trees makes Callaghan a paradise for splitboading.
Whitecap Alpine – Chilcotin Mountains, BC
Whitecap Alpine is situated in the Chilcotin Mountains to the north of Pemberton, British Columbia. Whitecap is on the colder drier side of the Coast Mountains so the rain that sometimes affects the Whistler area is very rare here – expect cold, dry powder and lots of it. The surrounding terrain is perfectly set up for splitboarding with steep alpine bowls leading down to some classic BC tree runs. Whitecap have certified mountain guides on hand to show you the goods along with a new heli assisted touring program to really get you in deep. Splitboard hire is available at the Lodge too.
Tarfala Mountain Hut – Sweden
The Tarfala Hut is in a pretty remote spot right by Sweden’s highest mountain Kebnekaise. It’s surrounded by glaciers and big open faces that hold cold powder all the way to May. It might be a long trek into Tarfala, but for anyone equipped with a splitboard or snow shoes, it would make for an amazing place to go snowboarding. And as this is the Arctic we’re talking about, there’s always a good chance of seeing the northern lights too.
Sorcerer Lodge – Selkirk Mountains, BC
Choosing a hut in the Selkirk Mountains isn’t easy due to the abundance of awesome places to spend the night. Sorcerer Lodge is a helicopter accessed lodge situated in the mountains between Revelstoke and Golden and looks like a rad place to go snowboarding. Sorcerer Lodge is pretty well decked out for a comfortable stay with a wood fired stove, comfy sofas and beds and even a wood fired sauna.
Asulkan Hut – Rogers Pass, BC
Rogers Pass has the best roadside splitboarding in the world and the Asulkan Hut is perfectly placed to access big mountain lines in the alpine and the incredible tree riding below. Big snowfalls are common here though so you need to be fully on your guard where avalanche safety is concerned. It’s also wise to pay attention to which parts of the mountains around Rogers Pass are closed due to avalanche danger. The Canadian army (yes, they have one) carry out avalanche control to protect the highway by firing shells from 105mm Howitzer rockets straight from the roadside. The Asulkan Hut is owned by the Alpine Club of Canada and is pretty basic so you need to take a sleeping bag along, although the hut does have a stove and kitchen utensils.
Maighels Hut – Switzerland
In the famously snowy mountains above the Swiss village of Andermatt, the Maighels Hut can accommodate up to 92 guests and provides both breakie and evening meal for guests. The hut also has a bar and a terrace where you can watch the sun set on the surrounding mountains after a day shredding pow. The hut is deep in the mountains yet is easy to access – just get off the train at the Oberalp Pass and the Maighels Hut is an easy two hour skin or hike.
Monte Rosa Hut – Switzerland
One of the highest mountain huts in the Alps, the Monte Rosa Hut is a proper state of the art building designed to be as environmentally friendly and efficient as possible. The Monte Rosa fills up in the spring with snowboarders trying to find the last scraps of powder in Europe and with big mountain riders looking to score rare and sought-after descents on the big faces of surrounding 4000m peaks.
Larsen Ridge Cabin – Terrace, BC
The Larsen Ridge Cabin is a tiny hut situated close to the town of Terrace in the Coast Mountains of Northern BC. The local resort (if you can call it a resort) is Shames Mountain, a place known for its mega snowfalls, deep trees and mind blowing backcountry. Larsen Ridge Cabin is accessed via a short heli ride out of the valley and from then on you’re alone in some of the best backcountry terrain on earth.
Know of any sweet backcountry cabins that didn't make this list? Let us know below.