ANTHONY LAKE — The COVID-19 pandemic has made it possible for some people to spend a couple of nights this winter in a snowbound log cabin high in the Elkhorn Mountains.
But if you wait long you might miss your chance.
Reservations for the historic Anthony Lake Guard Station, built in the 1930s by a Civilian Conservation Corps on the north shore of Anthony Lake, became available Jan. 1 on the website for Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort.
Within a couple of days, the two-story cabin had been reserved for almost every weekend through the ski season, which ends in early April. The guard station opens for renting on Wednesday, Jan. 13, (that night and the next were both available for reservations as of Thursday, Jan. 7).
The guard station rents for $350 per night, with a two-night minimum.
“People are always looking for a place to stay up here,” said Chelsea Judy, marketing director for the ski area about 35 miles northwest of Baker City.
The resort doesn’t have overnight lodging except for a pair of yurts.
And reservations for those structures are quickly snapped up, Judy said.
As of Thursday, one of the yurts had been reserved for all but two days — Jan. 26 and 27 — and the other was claimed on every day but the final day of the season, April 4.
The guard station normally is open for overnight stays only during the spring, summer and fall.
During the ski season, the structure usually serves as the Nordic center for Anthony Lakes, with cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals, trail passes to groomed routes, lesson registrations, coffee and a warm fireplace to sit beside.
But not during the pandemic. The issue, Judy said, is size.
The guard station, though it can accommodate eight people for overnight stays, has the typical tidy dimensions of a log cabin. That, combined with its single entrance, makes the cabin unsuitable as a Nordic center while the ski area follows social distancing guidelines, she said.
But resort staff members had a brainstorming session during which they decided to ask the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the guard station, whether it could be opened for overnight stays this winter.
The agency agreed, Judy said.
Preparing the guard station was simple since it was still set up for overnight stays and had not yet been changed to serve as the Nordic center, she said.
The guard station is a bit more plush than the ski area’s yurts, having both running water and electricity, as well as a full kitchen.
A new gas fireplace was installed recently, in the log cabin, Judy said.
Although the guard station is reserved for weekends, as of Thursday there were more than 35 nights available. That includes two Fridays — Feb. 12 and March 26 — as well as multiple Sunday nights — Jan. 24 and 31, Feb. 21 and March 7 and 14.
Judy said she’s not surprised the guard station was reserved on so many nights despite the two-night minimum and the relatively high rate compared with most regional lodging.
She noted the charge is comparable to the yurts, considering the size and additional amenities at the guard station.
One of the yurts, which sleeps up to five people, rents for $200 per night, and the larger yurt, with a capacity up to eight, goes for $250 per night.
Another change this winter is the resort offering catered dinners, as well as growlers of beer, for guests at the yurts and the guard station, Judy said.
Although the guard station won’t be the Nordic center this winter, cross-country skiers and snowshoers still have a place to go.
Judy said a 24-foot travel trailer will serve as the Nordic center starting Saturday, Jan. 9. The trailer will be set up in the Elkhorn Crest Trail parking lot, about an eighth of a mile east of the guard station.
The portable center will have the usual ski and snowshoe rentals, pass sales and hot coffee, she said.
One benefit of the temporary location is additional parking, Judy said.