Ostrander Hut - A once in a lifetime hut trip with Wyoming Whiskey

Some people pair wine with steak. We prefer to pair whiskey with ski huts. Recently, we teamed up with some of our favorite outdoor brands, along with Wyoming Whiskey, to commemorate our bucket list excursion to the Ostrander Hut in Yosemite.

Read about our adventure and check out the perfect cocktail recipes for your next backcountry ski trip below.


WYOMING TODDY

A backcountry twist on the warm cocktail classic

Ever had a Hot Toddy when you’re living the dream? Seat yourself on the porch of a backcountry ski hut, watch the sun set over your ski tracks and revel in the warmth of your liquid blanket. Our go-to nightcap, Hot Toddies are easy to make in batches and make you feel like you are on top of the world on a cold winter’s night.

Best enjoyed after a day spent knee deep in powder.

Single/Firelight 750

Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon

2 oz / 7.5 oz

Honey

1 tsp / 3.75 tsp

Alpine Apple Cider Mix

1 Tbsp / 3.75 Tbsp

Hot Water

4 oz / 15 oz

Combine bourbon, honey, apple cider mix & top with hot water. Fills an entire Firelight Flask.

Serve hot and garnish with a lemon slice.

Download the recipe card here

Ostrander Carajillo

A well-balanced cocktail that combines the bitterness of coffee, the sweet tanginess of Licor 43, and the caramel-forward Wyoming Whiskey to give you the shot of courage you need.

Originating in Spain and popularized in Mexico City, the Carajillo cocktail is no stranger to high altitudes. The Spanish root coraje, translates to courage, and the combination of espresso and whiskey should make its utility on the ski slopes self explanatory. Steep terrain, cold weather?

Have a sip of liquid coraje...

Best enjoyed after a long day of breaking trail.

Single/Firelight 750

Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon

1 oz / 5.5 oz

Licor 43

1 oz / 5.5 oz

Simple Syrup

0.5 oz / 2.75 oz

Espresso

2 oz / 11.25 oz

Combine bourbon, Licor 43, simple syrup & top with piping hot espresso. Fills an entire Firelight Flask.

Download the recipe card here

The Adventure  

 When I moved to San Francisco from Montana five years ago, I left behind a lot of the backcountry escapes I’d fallen in love with growing up. Tahoe is great, but my experiences left me wanting to get back into the backcountry and away from the crowds. I missed the rugged wilderness surrounding Bozeman where I could immerse myself in nature without the hassle of other people.

So this new year I decided to plan my first backcountry ski trip in the Sierras. I came across a remote stone hut just outside Yosemite Valley that has been a bucket list adventure for backcountry skiers for nearly 80 years. Named The Ostrander Hut, it's only accessible to those willing to sweat the day-long sufferfest to the top. Beyond that, it only allows 1500 guests per year (compared to Yosemite Valley’s 5 million annual visitors) and this late in the game, I was unlikely to get a reservation.

I somehow managed to snag a few mid-week reservations in March and I invited a pair of experienced backcountry skiers to join me. My next task was to find the perfect whiskey to commemorate this adventure. We reached out to our friends at Wyoming Whiskey and without hesitation they recommended their 100 Proof Outryder Straight American Whiskey and their signature Small Batch Bourbon - plus a couple cocktail recipes to go with them.

Day 1 - Tuesday, March 10th

In the days leading up to departure, the Sierras had one of the worst Februaries on record for snow. This meant that coverage was poor and we needed to hike some sections of the route - thus we needed to pack twice as much gear as we intended.

Undeterred, we set out for Yosemite. On the 5-hour drive we made one pitstop for a burrito and listened to the radio as the first cases of coronavirus were hitting Santa Clara county. We arrived safely at our cabin with just enough time to sip some whiskey, lay a fresh layer of wax down on our skis/snowboards, and look over our gear one last time. Lights out at 12:30am, alarm set for 5:15am to make our way to the hut.

Topping off our Firelight 750 with Wyoming Whiskey's Small Batch Bourbon  

Mixed conditions making for a slow trip into the hut

 

Day 2 - Wednesday, March 11th

We hit the trailhead in our boots at 7:25am for sunrise with our skis strapped to our 65lb packs. We spent much of the first few miles optimistically theorizing about when we might be able to strap on our skis. On a normal snow season, the trail is buried under a dozen feet of snow allowing for a five hour glide up to the hut.

We covered the first three miles in less than an hour but our pace slowed dramatically after mile 3. The trail manically alternated between dirt and snow and it felt like we were on Everest’s Khumbu Icefall - probing with our ski poles with every step to test the snow’s stability. Give us dirt, or give us snow, but goddamnit, don’t give us both! After a much needed break along Bridalveil Creek around mile 6 and we finally put on our skins and slogged the final 1500’ ft up and over the mountain. All in all, the trip up was about 13 miles, 2375 ft of elevation gain, and took 8.5 hrs.

There were only a handful of people up at the hut when we arrived. Most had cancelled due to lack of snow, coronavirus, or a combination of the two. After we hung our sweat drenched clothes up to dry, the long awaited celebratory cocktail hour began. Wyoming Toddies in hand, the three of us sat out on the front deck of the hut and watched the sunset over our tracks.

The Ostrander Ski Hut - est. 1941

Enjoying hot Wyoming Toddies after a long haul in

Day 3 - Wednesday, March 12th

I’d love to say that we had the best night's sleep of our lives, but the constant rushes of cold air swooping in from patrons using the outhouse door left our eyes feeling heavy in the morning. After some coffee and some awkward hut yoga, we strapped on our skis in search of some snow.

Most of the terrain within a couple miles of the hut was crusted over so we set out on a five mile skin towards Buena Vista Lake. Above it, sits a North facing ridgeline consisting of some nice wide chutes that empty out into a large, trackless bowl. We reached the top and finally captured our first clear view of our surroundings: Instead of looking up at the face of El Capitan from the Valley below and feeling like ants, we were looking down on it as if we were giants. This is why we made the trip - high fives and little sniffles all-around. One-by-one we flipped our skis into descend mode, took a few quick turns, picked up speed and whooped and hollered the whole way down. We lapped it over and over again for hours, until our legs finally gave out.

Returning to the hut, it was too early to sleep so we whipped up a batch of Wyoming Whiskey’s Carajillo cocktail for a long evening of Liar’s dice and jenga.

Dropping into the bowl above Buena Vista Lake

Topping off the Carajillo with hot espresso using our Wacaco Nanopresso

 

Day 4 - Thursday, March 13th

Armed with some better information about the best route back to the trailhead, we left the cabin just after sunrise. The snow held for a few miles, and we hiked out the remaining miles with far less drudgery than our trip in. We loaded up the car and when we got back into cell service and immediately our phones started blowing up… The NBA Season was postponed indefinitely and Tom Hanks has coronavirus? Uh, what?

When we left on Tuesday, the spread of Covid-19 was in its early stages. Upon exiting the backcountry, our world rapidly changed. The Ostrander Hut shut down days later and it will remain closed for the rest of the season. Looking back, this would have been an easy trip to cancel based on the lack of snow and the added hassle of carrying an extra 30lbs of gear to compensate. Now, as I sit confined to my apartment, I am overwhelmed with gratitude, realizing that trips like this are always worth pursuing, even if the conditions aren’t perfect. My first backcountry trip to the Sierras turned out to be once-in-a-lifetime for a completely different reason than I anticipated. I guess you just never know what world you might wake up in one day to the next.

Taking the quick route home - Skiing out of the hut on Horizon Ridge

Yosemite Valley - Savoring the last bit of the trip

Our route to the Ostrander Hut

We took the blue route along Bridalveil Creek to get up to the hut, but opted for what ended up being the quicker red route following Horizon Ridge on our way out