There is a certain stigma that comes with skiing the Northern Bridger Mountains during the heart of winter. It’s that you can’t. Not without a snowmobile to tow one up there at least. Accessing terrain in the Northern Bridgers is chalked up to be too difficult and too far to attempt without a snowmobile that can schlep one’s butt up to Fairy Lake. This commonly perpetuated lore is rarely challenged and generally accepted. It’s also a load of crap.
Accessing the terrain around Fairy Lake without a snowmobile is not only possible, it’s actually not nearly as arduous as it’s cracked up to be. Most people look at the five mile approach from the parking lot to Fairy Lake proper and simply write the idea off altogether, accepting that the stigma is true, it’s just too far to skin. A five mile approach would be difficult under most circumstances, but the skin to Fairy Lake is a little different. For one thing it’s mainly flat the whole way to the lake, and there isn’t much in the way of significant elevation gain. Secondly, it’s a packed down road. Skinning doesn’t get much easier than that.
The other day I reaffirmed my opinion regarding this matter. My friend and I brought my younger sister along with us for a tour up to Fairy Lake with intentions of skiing the Great One. My sister was visiting from Vermont and had barely skinned anything all season, and yet even she could handle the approach without much difficulty. After a two hour skin at a leisurely pace we found ourselves standing at the base of the Great One. It was not an overtly difficult skin, and certainly not the march of death many seem to regard it to be. So, why do people treat it as such?
Rumors, once established, are difficult to dispel. This sentiment holds true for the Fairy Lake skin. I too used to accept that it was probably too far to skin to lines in the Northern Bridgers, that it wasn’t really possible without a sled. Then one day I went out and gave it a shot, and realized that it wasn’t that bad. Exploration is the essence of backcountry skiing, and it would be silly to not give something a try just because people claim it’s too difficult. So, if you happen to be on the fence about skinning to Fairy Lake, give it a go. Depending on the final destination, one might even find that there are ways to shave mileage off the approach, but that too is knowledge that will only come with exploration. So, the next time you find yourself searching for something different to skin to, try skinning to Fairy Lake. You won’t know if you don’t go.