February 8, 2021

Wind River Country is famous for its climbing, fishing, majestic cirques, and spectacular hiking. But our best kept secret? The backcountry skiing! Though not often thought of as a ski destination with Jackson close by, the Winds and the Absarokas offer spectacular backcountry skiing with a variety of terrain, easy access, and delicious après without the crowds. Read on for the perfect day of backcountry skiing in Wind River Country. 

Backcountry skiing in Wind River Country, Dubois.
Back-country skiing, Dubois. Photo: Jared Steinman

Staying in Dubois offers all of the local charm without the hassle of a long drive early in the morning. If you’re looking to spend the night in downtown Dubois, consider the, Stagecoach Inn and Suites or the Rocky Mountain Lodge. If you prefer to be a few minutes drive outside of town, the Crooked Creek Guest Ranch is fun and an authentic Wyoming experience. 

Make sure you have everything you need: adequate layers, a headlamp, a thermos full of your favorite tea, plenty of snacks, sunglasses, goggles, skis, skins, boots, poles, and a daypack to carry it all in. Most importantly, double check that you have your safety equipment of a topographic map of Togwotee Pass, a beacon with full batteries, snow shovel, and probe. Everyone in your ski party needs to understand snow science and how to assess avalanche hazards. You can hire a guide or take an avalanche course to learn the necessary skills. But please understand that backcountry skiing takes a lot of skill and experience. Always check the avalanche forecast before going backcountry skiing in Wind River Country. If you forgot something, you can swing by Wind River Gear in Dubois. 

No need to rush in the morning— you’re already so close to your ski tour! Wake up with the sun and find your way to one of Dubois’ best breakfast joints to caffeinate and fuel your big day. We love The Perch Coffee House— grab a latte and scone and hit the road. Or for a more sit down breakfast experience, try Cowboy Cafe

Togwotee Pass, blanketed in snow, offers a pristine backdrop for backcountry skiing with its towering, jagged peaks and tranquil forested areas.
Togwotee Pass. Photo: Melanie Hoefle

Once you’re full of coffee and bacon, start your drive northwest towards Togwotee Pass on Highway 26. As you pull out of town, check out the Jackalope at the Exxon Gas Station and County Store. We love to buy a bag of chocolate turtles for the day and snap a quick picture riding the rarely seen Wind River Country jackalope.

Perhaps the most accessible and scenic ski tour is found on Two Ocean Mountain. To get there, drive up Togwotee for 30 miles from Dubois. You’ll pass Wind River Lake Picnic site on Brooks Road on your right, and you’ll come to the top of Togwotee Pass shortly after. Park wherever there’s space! This can be a popular snowmobiling spot, so please be cautious of speedy sledder traffic on the slopes. But once you’re a few hundred feet up, the buzz of snow machines will disappear. Skiers love this spot, so you should see skin tracks leaving the lot. After about 20 minutes, you’ll enter the trees and start to climb. 

Backcountry Skiing in Wind River Country on Togwotee Pass. Photo: Charlie Manganiello
Skiing on Togwotee Pass. Photo: Charlie Manganiello

Two Ocean is a particularly special ski destination because it’s home to some of the oldest skiing in the area. In fact, years ago there was a rope tow to pull you uphill! Though that’s no longer there, you’ll find ample untracked snow on moderate, north-facing slopes waiting for your turns. On clear days, you have a killer view of the Teton Mountains, Gannett Peak (Wyoming’s tallest mountain), and the Gros Ventre Mountains. After your quads are tired and your cheeks hurt from smiling, drive back to Dubois for a warm meal and cold beer. You can grab some delicious steaks or burgers at The Lone Buffalo or finish your perfect day of skiing with pie from Cowboy Cafe. In fact, the pie is so good that travelers passing through Dubois are known to take entire pies for the road! A perfect way to end your adventure.

If you’re planning an excursion of backcountry skiing in Wind River Country, you can get regular condition updates from our winter e-newsletter. Subscribe here.

Kathryn Montana Perkinson is a writer living in Lander, Wyoming. Find more at kathrynmontana.com and @kathrynmontana.

Posted in Notes From the Field