Adventure Guide: Backcountry

Adventure Guide: Backcountry

Your roadmap to the greatest expeditions McCall has to offer.

6 min read

Your roadmap to the greatest expeditions McCall has to offer

One of the most dangerous and exhilarating winter-sports achievements is playing in the powder on the far side of the mountains.

Once you crest the peak, the vast expanse seems limitless. Adventure awaits, and all that’s left to do is to seize it—after taking the proper safety courses.

There are several different degrees of backcountry tours. From the lift-served areas that are simply out-of-bounds, to the guided trips deep into the wilderness, each opportunity has its own unique twists and turns down a pristine bed of snow.

Explore all the options, and always be sure to pack accordingly and practice avalanche safety. Also, keep an eye out for potential heliskiing options that McCall Heli will soon offer.

Payette Avalanche Center (PAC)

First things first: safety. The mission of the Payette Avalanche Center is to provide avalanche safety information for people recreating, working, or traveling in the West Central Mountains.

Well before peak season, George Halcom and Kevin Studley begin daily avalanche forecasts in the fall after enough snow accumulates in the mountains for on-snow travel in the backcountry and continue them until early April. PAC also relies on community reports to better cover the vast area they cover. To contact the forecasters during the winter season, email, or visit their website at, to learn more about submitting an observation.

The PAC also offers a variety of avalanche safety resources funded and supported by the Friends of the Payette Avalanche Center (FPAC), a non-profit organization formed in 1999. Since then, they’ve provided a community-based forum to share avalanche information, as well as operated and maintained beacon basin training facilities in the area, to provide basic avalanche education to all types of winter recreationists.

The FPAC believes education leads to awareness, and awareness leads to safe backcountry travel. It is their desire to foster the community and government support that will allow the PAC to continue to grow and provide individuals with the tools and information necessary for safe backcountry recreation.

Jug Mountain Backcountry

Jug Mountain is one of the more iconic mountains around McCall. It is noticeable to the east as you’re driving from Lake Fork to McCall and rests above Louie Lake which is one of the most popular hikes in the area. Jug Mountain is a great hike in the summer and a popular backcountry ski destination in the winter. While it’s accessible all year, users should be wary of avalanches during the winter, as the slopes on the west face are in the mid-30-degree range while the slopes off the east side are upward of 70 degrees.

Lift-Served Backcountry At Brundage Mountain Resort

Backcountry skiing and snowboarding are enjoyed by passionate Brundage Mountain riders who like to experience fresh powder and awesome terrain outside the patrolled and controlled parts of the ski area. Brundage Mountain emphasizes that having the right equipment and training is essential to having a safe backcountry experience. Those epic powder lines are spectacular, but they are also potentially dangerous.

Users should always watch for hazards—the backcountry is littered with hazards, including the threat of avalanches. There are no ski patrol services, so any rescues may be at your own expense. Educate yourself before leaving the Brundage ski area boundary, ski and ride in groups, and always bring a cell phone, avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe. Additionally, it’s smart to be conscious of daylight so you don’t get lost in the dark and coordinate a meet-up plan to reconvene if your group splits up.

Brundage also offers a variety of guided Snowcat trips to backcountry skiers and snow boarders on about 19,000 acres of the forest through their permitted outfitter guide operations. Take the time to enjoy the forest and the winter backcountry while remembering that this is a shared-use area. Respect other users and respect the regulations.

CM Backcountry Sled Tours

This service offers an opportunity to experience the ultimate ride on a guided adventure. McCall is known for its outdoor beauty and some of the best snowmobiling in the Northwest. With hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails and destinations to see, it makes an unbeatable place to explore.

Some of the more popular snowmobile destinations include Burgdorf Hot Springs where riders can enjoy an afternoon in a naturally maintained hot spring with gravel bottoms, heated dressing rooms, and fresh geothermal water flow. They also have overnight packages available where guests can stay in authentic rustic cabins. Another great destination is the Secesh Stage Stop where visitors can enjoy a hot meal and a nice fire to warm up before the ride back.

CM Backcountry Rentals and Adventures is ready to show experienced riders and newcomers the backcountry expedition of a lifetime. Book a trip as soon as possible because the winter season schedule fills up fast. During peak season, they host daily guided tours.

Payette Powder Guides

The premier backcountry guides in Valley County are located in the West Central Mountains near McCall. Payette Powder Guides are situated on the Payette Crest at Lick Creek Summit, adjacent to the Salmon River and the Frank Church Wilderness surrounded by the highest peaks in the area. Their wilderness headquarters features a deep and consistent powder snowpack that averages 10 to 12 feet per season.

Throughout the season, Payette Powder Guides offer a snowcat- or snowmobile-accessed backcountry ski adventure. The Lick Creek Yurt sits amid 30,000 acres of untracked powder. Guests can spend a day hiking and skiing in the heart of the Lick Creek Mountains with an experienced guide. The full-service experience features comfortable four-stroke touring snowmobiles to take smaller groups of two to six people, or a snowcat to take larger groups to the access point.

Additionally, Payette Powder Guides have been giving back to the community with avalanche education for over 14 years, and American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) courses for nearly a decade. Their courses are taught to the American Avalanche Association and AIARE standards.

The Lick Creek Summit Yurts are ready to go by early December and operate until April. They have two yurts, a wood-fired sauna, and an outhouse. From mellow burned tree glades, to the steep and deep, guests will find loads of vertical just out the door. This location can accommodate trips between a day and a week.

The yurt is available for rent if experienced backcountry explorers want to host a self-guided trip. However, Payette Powder Guides requires trip leaders to have a Level I Avalanche Safety Course or equivalent. Payette Powder Guides will evaluate the equivalent experience to determine if it is satisfactory.

Trip leaders must be familiar with the terrain in the proximity of the Lick Creek Summit Yurts. If they are not, they must hire a guide to give an introductory hut tour of the area.

The trip leader will also ensure that one fully stocked firstaid kit is available to the group and that at least one person in the group has first-aid and CPR training. A trip leader will be the contact person for Payette Powder Guides and will be responsible for submitting the registration packet prior to the trip.