Steamboat Springs If you've yet to yodel in a yurt, this could be your winter.
Partners in Interpretation is offering a series of three overnight excursions to yurts maintained by Steamboat Lake State Park at Pearl Lake, about 30 miles from Steamboat Springs.
Yurts are essentially round, domed tents with wooden floors, bunk beds and a heat source. The original yurt was invented by a Mongol somewhere in Siberia.
Trip leader Karen Vail said the overnight trips to the yurts will provide a gentle introduction to the experience of winter camping. Or, for those who aren't ready for a Tenth Mountain Division backcountry hut trip, this could be the next best thing.
"We'll go up there in the afternoon and snowshoe or ski in about a half-mile," Vail said. "It's just to get the feeling of being outside in the wintertime. We'll go for a moonlight ski it's just so still and calm. You just can't imagine it."
The yurt trips are planned Jan. 24 through 25, Feb. 7 through 8 and March 7 through 8, Vail said. The latter two will take place on the night of a full moon. Participation is limited to eight people, and the February trip is almost full already. Interested people can reserve a spot in the yurt trip by calling Yampatika Natural and Cultural Connection at 871-9151, or Vail at 879-8140.
Yurt campers on Vail's trip will need to bring only their sleeping bag, pillow and personal items. All meals during the two-day overnight trip will be included in the price of $50 per person, or $90 per couple.
Independent winter enthusiasts may reserve a yurt of their own.
The yurt Vail's campers will stay in is one of two Steamboat Lake State Park is offering for public use at Pearl Lake this winter. Park Manager Ken Brink said yurts have been made available at several state parks in Colorado after the members of the state parks commission traveled to Oregon to learn what another Western state is doing with its parks.
"They decided to go on the road and find out what other states were doing to serve niche markets," Brink said. He said they learned there are a significant number of people who love the outdoors and their state parks but don't own camper trailers and don't want to invest in tents and backpacks and all the gear normally needed to go camping.
"Our goal is we want to reach people who aren't into the hard-core wilderness experience and offer something you can enjoy without a whole lot of special equipment and knowledge," Brink said.
The yurts at Pearl lake, as well as the five "camping cabins" at the Steamboat Lake marina, are a direct result of the trip to Oregon. Like the yurts, the cabins are also open in winter, but they provide a different experience.
"The atmosphere back there in that deep snow is special," Brink said. "The cabins are set in a dense forest."
The two yurts are about 50 yards apart with an outdoor vault toilet between them. The toilet is new and comes equipped with an overhung roof that prevents the door to the privy from being buried in snow.
A portable stove is one piece of equipment independent yurt campers might want to bring along. Brink said cooking is not allowed inside the yurts. So, if you want hot meals, plan on cooking on a camping or backpacking stove on the deck. Wood fires aren't practical, Brink said.
The yurts each sleep six people, Brink said. The walls of the yurts are heavy canvas coated with a rubber-like material. They are equipped with electric lights and two electric heaters with blowers.