One of my favorite things to do in Colorado in the winter is to ‘do a hut trip’. What does that mean exactly? Well, there is a backcountry hut system that includes 30 huts scattered about the Rocky Mountains. These rustic cabins are located at about 10,000+ feet and have been built with love and care by the 10th Mountain Division Association. Many have been built in honor of fallen heroes or deceased lovers of the outdoors. There is typically a write-up in the hut about how it was named – touching indeed.
What are the huts like?
The huts are log cabins (1,500 to 3,000 sq ft) and sleep anywhere from 6 to 20 people which means you are going to share the joint with many folks you don’t know. Yes, sometimes you will find a person who wants to sing Puff the Magic Dragon after dinner – practice emotional intelligence skills and ignore. There are typically a few rooms that sleep 4 to 6 at a pop and a shared common space where you put the kids or your friends who snore.
If you stay in one of the larger huts, there is a common area on the first floor where everyone congregates. The common area includes bench type seating along the windows that show off the CRAZY beauty of the Rocky Mountains. This is also where the kitchen ‘lives’. The kitchen is equipped with everything you need from plates, coffee mugs, cookware, and utensils. There is a fireplace as well. This multi-functional object serves as a way to heat the cabin, dry wet clothes and melt snow for cooking.
There is no running water, so you will not have a hot shower, bath or flushing toilet. You have a method to melt water via the fireplace as mentioned above and have to boil it on the gas stove in the kitchen to make it drinkable.
How do you make a reservation? There are several ways to accomplish this sometimes challenging task:
What mode of transportation is used to access a hut?
You have the option of back country skiing or snowshoeing to get to the front door. If you cross country ski, I would suggest your skill level be considered intermediate or above. Routes are typically about 6 to 7 miles in duration and can include undulating terrain. Many folks sign up for a ‘hut to hut’ trip and backcountry ski from one to the other. That looks pretty cool to me, however, I am not a great cross country skier and I fear snowshoeing would not be nearly as enjoyable.
What do you do when you get to a hut?
- Ponder Life Bus activities
- Hang with friends and play games or chat about your favorite blogs
- Backcountry ski or snowshoe in the surrounding area
- Dig out a racetrack on one of the hills and sled like there is no tomorrow
What do you bring to a hut?
- Sleeping bag and a pillow case unless you are ok with using the case that is currently on the pillow and used by hundreds prior to washing.
- Good food. I have seen people make cupcakes using a clever backpacking recipe. If you go with multiple couples, you can plan who cooks what meal and lighten the load a little.
- Sleds! Bring at least 2, there are plenty of hills around!
- Beer or wine is a must if you are so inclined.
- Trash bags as you have to pack out your trash.
- Appropriate cold weather clothing – don’t forget you are in the mountains where the weather can change in an instant.
- Toiletries you can’t live without. Keep in mind, your backpack can get heavy QUICKLY if you don’t watch it.
It’s an interesting study of social behavior….people JUST KNOW what to do when they get to a hut. Groups sort of magically disperse and respect other’s privacy and space. Depending on the experience of the attendees, rarely do you have to coordinate much with other groups.
Overall, this is one of the best ways to spend time with good friends in Colorado. It’s cheap, physically challenging and a perfect way to spend a few days in the Rocky Mountains in the winter. It doesn’t get much better than this!