Hut trips are one of the best ways to experience the true essence of Colorado high-country winter, and several organizations offer a variety of huts for the cross-country skiing or snowshoeing — the perfect reward at the end of an invigorating day of trekking and tracking.
Colorado's hut systems, including the famed 10th Mountain Division huts, are well-equipped to provide warmth and rest after a vigorous day in the sun and snow during the winter (typically November to May).
What to Expect
Be prepared: Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing hut trips are no walk in the park. Map skills to keep you on the safest, most stable trail and preparing for the unexpected are important elements of a hut-to-hut trip. Be sure you're fit and strong enough to make the trek required to get to the hut; and be sure to pack adequate clothing, food and water supplies essential for a successful excursion.
All the huts in Colorado are extremely popular, so advanced planning and reservations are imperative. Huts sleep between three and 20 people, and it's normal to share it with other skiers and snowshoers using the trails. They typically include beds and some sort of stove; water is generally obtained by melting snow.
Colorado Hut Systems
Colorado's 10th Mountain Division Hut System is located between Aspen, Leadville and Vail. Linked by more than 350 miles of trails at an elevation of 9,700 to 11,700 feet, it provides winter recreation enthusiasts access to the White River, Arapaho and San Isabel National Forests. The system includes 30 huts with an average route of six to seven miles and a 1,500- to 2,500-foot elevation gain. Most of the huts sleep 16 people, but the size ranges from capacities of three to 20. The association's name "honors the men of 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, who trained during World War II at Camp Hale in central Colorado."
The Summit Huts System currently consists of four huts: Francie's Cabin near Breckenridge (capacity 20); Janet's Cabin near Copper Mountain (capacity 20); and the Boreas Pass Section House (capacity 12) and Ken's Cabin (capacity 3) east of Breckenridge. This nonprofit organization, founded in 1987, operates under special use permit from the USDA Forest Service in the White River and Pike-San Isabel National Forests. Plans are in the works for three or more cabins in the future.
Colorado's first ski-oriented hut system, the Alfred A. Braun Hut System offers six high-mountain cabins in the Elk Mountain Range that sleep seven to 14. Ski hut-to-hut or spend a couple of nights in one place, making it convenient to venture out and back without the worry of losing your way. Located south of Aspen, unlimited mountaineering opportunities abound. Trails to these huts are not marked and there is known avalanche danger in the area; guide services are available in Aspen to help you find your way.
With five backcountry ski huts connecting Telluride, Ridgway and Ouray in southwest Colorado, the San Juan Hut System offers a route not to be missed. You can travel hut-to-hut or access each hut individually along 60 miles of Nordic trails in the beautiful Mount Sneffels Range of the San Juan Mountains. These huts all sleep eight; with treks between trailheads and each hut ranging from three to nine and a half miles.
At 11,950 feet facing a sprawling valley with expansive panoramas of Mount Holy Cross, this backcountry hut atop Weston Pass near Leadville offers a true taste of the high country. The mostly uphill trek to the hut from the confluence of Little Union and Big Union creeks in Lake County is about 6.7 miles with an altitude gain of 2,252 feet. The hut sleeps 20 and amenities include a wood-burning stove, pots and pans, foam mattresses, pillows and LED lanterns.
Other Colorado Huts
The 10th Mountain Division Hut Association keeps a great list of individual huts and yurts for backcountry winter fun.
Additionally, many of the 41 Colorado State Parks are home to yurts and cabins that are great for overnight winter recreation.
You can also read about Colorado Nordic Centers for day cross-crountry and snowshoeing trips in Colorado.
Huts for Summer Camping
Photos courtesy of 10th Mountain Division Hut System.