The McCall, Idaho, area has a lot of backcountry skiing, but most of it requires a snowmobile to access or a long ski approach. Brundage Mountain, locally referred to by some as Sargeant's Peak, is the main exception. Eight miles round trip and gaining roughly 2,000 feet, it's a winter summit friendly to powder hounds with beautiful views of Long Valley and Payette Lake.
The route starts out of the upper parking lot at Brundage Mountain Resort. On the north end of the lot is a large sign designating a "dog area." Ski through this to Granite Lake Road at the top. The road is a groomed snowmobile trail in the winter. Turn right uphill and follow the road for 1.25 miles before cutting off to the right again and into the backcountry.
Since this is a popular local ski area, there should be a well-worn skin track (and some "no snowmobile" signs) to the right, where your trail cuts off from Granite Lake Road. Follow this along what is a forest road when not covered in snow. After half a mile the trail cuts off of the road to the right and up a small creek bed. Another tenth of a mile gets you to the bottom of the first meadow that will have ski tracks coming down—unless you are lucky enough to ski fresh snow. After you cross a snowed-over creek at the bottom of the meadow, the trees open up, allowing for many routes depending on your goal, the type of terrain you are looking for, and if you want to set your own skin track or follow an existing trail.
Straight up through the meadow is open terrain with a few trees. There is usually at least one track from here winding up the ridge to the summit. The north and east faces are steeper, with more gentle slopes and an easy ski back to the trailhead on the west face. One of the best features of Sargeant's Peak is the variety of terrain available. There is steep and deep snow for advanced skiers, but it is also a great place for people who are less experienced in the backcountry to get some runs and gain skill and confidence. With good route choice, someone who skis green and blue runs at the resort can comfortably ski from the top of Brundage Mountain.
In about 4 miles and 1,700 feet of elevation gain, you reach the summit. If it is a clear day, you will be able to look down to the east and see Payette Lake, Ponderosa Park, the town of McCall, and south down Long Valley. To the west, you will be able to see all of the way to the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon.
If you have a powder hound, this is a great outing for them. Before you head out make sure that the snow isn't too deep for your pup. Remember, your dogs don't get the benefit of sliding on the way down, and deep snow can be exhausting. Also, make sure that you have plenty of snacks and water. If your dog doesn't like to drink while out and about, try putting some broth into a bottle of water for them to encourage hydration. For the portion of the trail on Granite Lake Road, keep your pups close or on a leash. The snowmobilers on the road do not always slow down for skiers, and a dog running all over the trail is at risk.
The terrain on Brundage Mountain can also be accessed by riding Brundage Mountain Resort's Bluebird Express lift and skinning north along the ridge. You can ski straight back to the parking lot at the resort to do it all over again.
Check the Payette Avalanche Center for local avalanche conditions.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.