December 11, 2014 Backcountry Skiing, Williams Peak HutIt’s been an early start to the winter and we’ve been scrambling to finish projects that we thought had more time to finish. But that’s a good problem to have and no one’s complaining! There’s a 3-5′ base in the Sawtooths and around Banner Summit, and the 2014-15 ski season is in full swing.Snow ConditionsThis has been one of the better starts in recent years. There is currently a 3′ base at the Williams Peak Hut, with an even deeper base in the terrain up high. Banner Summit has 3-5′ on the ground. Better still, warm temperatures have helped settle and strengthen the snow, providing a solid and supportable base. Currently there aren’t any clear instabilities in the snowpack, but be sure to check the Sawtooth Avalanche Center for the latest conditions.CoursesOur winter programs are in full swing. We’ve already completed a Level 1 Refresher, and we have a Backcountry Skills Course heading into the hut tomorrow. The terrain above the hut has yet to feel the kiss of skis, so this group will have their work cut out for them! We still have space available in our December 19-21 Backcountry Skills Course, so get in touch if you want to join us and get your season started right!While our AIARE Level 1 Courses based at the hut are booked (actually there’s one spot left!), our Stanley-based courses still have space. These Level 1s will be based at our new office in Stanley which will provide an ideal classroom. The Stanley courses benefit from visiting two distinct snowpacks – Banner and Galena Summits – while also taking advantage of web-based tools not always available at the hut.Hut ImprovementsThe main fall project at the Williams Peak Hut was building new bunk beds in both yurts. We hauled rough-sawn lumber up by mule, and although this is a departure from the native lodgepole used for the frames in the past, it has resulted in much stronger structures. We realize the importance of a good night’s rest after a long day of skiing the Sawtooths!If you haven’t been to the hut, or just want to see the latest improvements, check out the Google PhotoSphere image!Guide TrainingThe official start to the winter and summer season’s is always our bi-annual guide training. This always involves a review of our operating procedures and risk management program. We’ve made major improvements to our operational snow safety procedures, providing important tools to guides to they can choose the best terrain given the current avalanche conditions. We did a full-blown avalanche rescue/injured skier/emergency evac training on Banner Summit that was incredibly educational for all involved.See the photos below! Bluebird early-season powder on Banner Summit Completed new bunk beds - much stronger! A great early season snowpack at the hut Evening light sets over the Sawtooths Getting some during our recent Level 1 Refresher Course Already a winter wonderland Packaging up "injured" guide Marc Hanselman duing our winter guide training scenario Towing out an "injured" skier on an improvised sleds.