We've all had that kind of moment—when the magical escapism of time in the mountains draws to a bittersweet close. Like at the end of a hut trip, when and we must pack up the car, point it away from the mountains and follow the highwayback to our own daily lives. Somewhere inside, most of us have probably wondered, What if I could just stay? What would it be like to actually live that hut-trip life every day? That's why, when I heard about the Yancey family, I had to find out more.
Mark and Sarah Yancey own and operate the iconic Boulder Hut in British Columbia's Purcell Mountains. With their two children, Alden and Grace, they live in Sandpoint, Idaho, during the summers—but when the snow flies each year, they move up to the Purcells to host skiers at their off-grid backcountry lodge. Alden and Grace are homeschooled, and their daily life is a mix of homework, chores and socializing with guests—and lots of skiing. All winter long, Alden and Grace never have to "go home" from skiing—because they are home. We caught up with them to find out a little bit of what it's like to be 11 years old and 14 years old and live at a remote ski hut.
OR: How old were you when you first skied? Do you remember it?
Alden (11 years old): Technically, it was on my mom’s back when I was less than one. Thanks to our friend Shep, I already had a pair of skis before I was born. I was probably one when I started but I don’t remember it.
Grace (14 years old): I was one or two. I don’t remember it. My strongest memory of skiing when I was little was skiing down a little slope learning to stop under the Heli-pad and I crashed into my dad. I got a bloody nose. It was all over my dad’s jacket. (laughs)
OR: Are there any ski or snow skills you two are working on and hope to improve at this year?
Alden: I am working on my Butters. (For those not in the know: Butters are where you lean forward on to the front tip of your skis. The only part of your ski touching the snow is the tip. Then you swing around, ride backward, and turn out of it.)
Grace: I want to work on my avalanche safety skills. I want to build another rail and bigger jumps. We have a small hill right outside the hut. It used to be the sledding hill but it's becoming more of a terrain park. Sometimes guests help us. If it snows a lot then I just go skiing. Usually, we spend more time on the jumps in the spring. Most of the runs we ski on have natural features which are super fun.
OR: Being homeschooled, is it hard to sit and do schoolwork sometimes, when there's fresh snow out there?
Alden: It is always hard because there’s always fresh snow out there!
Grace: It is soo hard. I take a lot of powder days and have to catch up at night. It’s frustrating to fall behind.
OR: Do you think your friends might be a little envious of your skiing life?
Grace: Yeah, they get very envious of all the powder and open space. Also, they get jealous of my homeschooling schedule and all of my time in a helicopter.
OR: What's your least favorite thing about living at the Boulder Hut?
Grace: The outhouse!! (I don't like the outhouse because I have to walk outside in the cold to a frozen toilet seat! Yes even in the middle of the night in the dark!)
Alden: I can’t bike there (yet).
OR: Can you tell me a little bit about your dog, Luna? So cute!
Alden: She is a Great Pyrenees girl. She can be sweet but she is still a puppy. She is mostly well behaved. She likes to walk up between your legs whether you have skis on or not, she likes to be close. We have another Great Pyrenees Rosey, she is always sweet.
Grace: Luna is a very loud, rowdy girl. No she is not well behaved. She can be sweet and very affectionate if you pet her. We also have an amazing older dog who is well behaved and super chill but now she is getting fat!
OR: Do you have chores you have to do around the lodge? Do you like them? Any chores you hate?
Alden: Yes, it depends if it’s dumping or nuking. It’s not easy when it’s dumping but its torture when it’s nuking. I chop kindling, I shovel, I help with firewood and at the Heli pad on exchange days. Sometimes I like chores, like when they get me out of school. I hate dishes!
OR: What's one thing people don't know about your life at the Boulder Hut that you think is cool?
Alden: That all of our supplies come in and go out by helicopter. And of course being IN THE MOUNTAINS for the whole winter.
OR: Since all your supplies come in and out via helicopter, I bet there are things you miss during the winter because you can't just run out to pick it up at the local grocery store. Are there things you miss? That you can't wait to eat or buy when you get back to town? Things that you guys stock up on?
Grace: When I get out I can't wait to eat smoothies and sorbet. Other than that the food is so good there that I don't crave anything. I also miss riding my bike and taking long showers. We have a sauna but I have to walk through the snow every day in my robe to get there.
OR: Do you get to meet most of the guests who stay there? Do you ever have friends come visit?
Grace: All of them. Do 30 year old friends count?
OR: What's your favorite thing about living at the Boulder Hut?
Alden: Meeting people from all around the world.
Grace: Easy access to powder and steep lines.