For the East Coasters who have just barely recovered from yet another Nor’easter, everyone seems ready to say goodbye to winter and hop into Spring. But if you indulge Mother Nature just a touch and embrace the season of snow a bit longer, you’ll set yourself up for some magical adventures.
Far out in the Centennial mountain range, miles from civilization and deep in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest lies a little hut, a refuge from wind and snow with a roaring wood burning stove and a few cozy beds to call home. That cozy little home is known as the Hellroaring hut, a glorified tent getaway that lets you explore the backcountry like you’ve never seen it and ski powder like you could never find at a resort. It’s backcountry camping at its absolute finest, and the snow is better than ever right now. It’s still coming down hard, and there are fresh tracks to be laid. Give those skis one more turn before you call it quits.
The Hellroaring Hut has been in existence over twenty years—discovered by heli-skiing locals decades ago, it’s still considered one of Montana’s best kept secrets. It’s technically a three-season structure, coming down every spring and being built again every fall per the National Forest guidelines. It’s quite the expedition, with horses hauling the steel frames in and out of the forestry.
These days Hellroaring is run by ski aficionado and guide extraordinaire Sam Hansen, who fell in love with the Centennials as a boy skiing and snowmobiling with his father.
With 10 years of commercial guiding experience and a resume full of certifications under his belt (including Avalanche I, II, II+, and III-Pro level training), there’s no one else that you’d want taking you so deep deep deep into the forest and powdery bliss.
A trip to the hut starts with an automatic adventure—there’s no down time here. Once you begin your journey with Hellroaring, it’s constant adrenaline.
We headed out with the team, Sam and one of his guides, and hopped on some snowmobiles for a scenic ride seven miles into the mountains. When the snowmobile-able terrain ended we strapped the backpacks on and skinned in for a mostly mellow and absolutely stunning skin to the actual hut.
A day out with Sam is different than a typical day with a resort Mountain Ambassador. His focus is on taking you around to get the goods while checking the snowpack for avalanche danger, staying safe and scoring awesome turns. In these avy prone mountains, safety is key and a guide who understands that is who you want by your side. We arrived at our humble little abode, kept the ski boots on, and went straight into a really informative and helpful mini-avalanche training before heading out and soaring around some of the best freshies we’ve ever found.
Sams’ tours are tailored to each individual and group, depending on whether you want to sort of cruise around, enjoy the scenery and drink beer by the fire, or if you’re looking to push your limits a little and get into steeper challenging terrain. The beautiful thing is that it’s all right there, right outside your hobbit-esque front door and at your fingertips.
The Centennial Range is one of only two ranges in the U.S. that run East-West as opposed to North-South. It sits at the end of the Snake River Plain, famous for funneling frequent storms right into the East end of the range into 10,000’ peaks like Mt Jefferson Nemesis and the Continental Divide.
How many times have you felt like you’ve overskiied a mountain, or even gone the extra mile for heli or powder cat skiing and had a blast, but it was over too soon? The wonder of staying this far into the mountains, with a guide who knows the terrain, is that the range is your playground. Skin up, ski down, get those face shots in, and enjoy a winter wonderland of constant first tracks.
Right now there’s a base of 100” of glorious powder sitting at the base of the 7700’ elevation hut. This April still has a few scant spots open, so if you’re feeling the itch and yearn to move your muscles, get into the woods, and feel something real, get on a plane. Pack the skis and beacon. Get out there and see the magic for yourself.