There are two kinds of backcountry skiers in Colorado: those
who participate a year in advance in the lottery system for the right to spend a coveted weekend in a 10th Mountain
Division Hut and those who don't. Guess where I fall on the
do not have a sweet hut trip planned yet for the upcoming season, despite a hut trip being one of my most absolute favorite things in the world. When you skin
miles away from a parking lot, gain elevation, and reach a cozy log cabin
stocked with everything you need for a night out (beds, plates and silverware,
cooking instruments, solar-powered light bulbs, wood burning stoves, ginormous
pots for melting snow and making drinking water, outhouses, and, when you're
lucky, a sauna), it is downright incredible. Who wouldn't want to spend a winter evening or three in such
simplistic luxury? (And believe me, when you're spending the night anywhere
without central heating in the winter, things like wood burning stoves and
mattresses rank high on the luxury list.)
because I don't have one booked (the lottery took place sometime last spring
when I was mired in newborn baby details, although I've never actually gotten my act together to enter a hut
lottery), doesn't mean I am not going on a hut trip this year. In fact, I
guarantee I will go on a hut trip --and I'll tell you exactly how you can follow suit.
1. Forget about going
on a weekend, especially a holiday weekend.Even though the 10th Mountain Division manages 29 huts
connected by 350 miles of routes, there are a lot more people who want a spot
than can get them. Unless you were a lucky early bird, getting a hut on New Years
or President's Day or during spring break or actually almost any weekend of the
winter is like the Democrats trying to hold on to the Senate in these mid-term
elections. So suck it up and take vacation time.
yourself with the territory.Colorado's mountain ranges are -- to say the obvious -- vast. A
hut trip could leave from Breckenridge, Leadville, Vail Pass, or Aspen. Orient
to get the lay of the land. Check out the hut descriptions here, and think about
whether you want a lot of space or a cozy cabin for three. Then move on to step
3. Expand your range.Now that I've got a baby in tow, I want to get a hut that
has as short a ski in as possible. Yes, I absolutely LOVE the 11-mile
sufferfest into the Friends Hut
from Crested Butte, but will 8-month old Henry? I doubt it. That said, I
realize it may be a pipe dream to score a hut for me and my pals at Shrine
Mountain Inn or Francie's, both of which have a mere mile or two trek in. So
I'm going to limit my search to huts that have a four-mile-or-less ski in.
**Warning, this is an annoying thing to determine because
the huts.org website doesn't have an easily accessible table comparing the hut
routes. If you're a Luddite, be prepared to take some notes and if you're
computer savvy, write a program and then donate it to the nice 10th Mountain
Division folks to make my life easier. Thank you.
4. Jump on the
calendar.Go to "hut
availability", click on a week, then a hut, and start your search.
You'll see some huts have a few spaces available. This means parties have
reserved some, but not all the beds. If you don't have a potentially crabby
baby, go ahead and squeeze in with strangers-maybe you'll find your soul mate
or make friends for life. If, like me, you're bringing baby, be nice and find
an empty hut (hint: look for Monday-Thursday). No one wants to hear all about
Junior's first ever hut trip ---especially if it is from Junior screaming his
lungs out at 4 a.m. You can thank me later.
5. Act fast.When you find a hut in an acceptable location with an
acceptable number of open spots CALL (you cannot make reservations online) the
reservation line at 970-925-5775. Most huts cost between $23-$43 per person (kids
are half price!) plus tax. Seriously, be quick. I've already lost a few spots
because I dawdled after noticing them while I waited for my friends to confirm
if they were in or not.
yourself, then start preparing.You can't be an idiot in the backcountry. You're going into
avalanche terrain, in the elements, when there is very little daylight. Go to
the local mountaineering shop and get help buying the right map and buying or
renting the right gear. And make sure you have a beacon, probe and shovel per person along with some basic avalanche knowledge. Also invite your friends and ask them to ante up their
money share ASAP -- everyone is always excited about a hut trip, but when the date
actually arrives, many people bail. They're less likely to if they've already
7. Bypass all these
steps by going straight to the forum.The forum
has a buy/sell thread, and you can always troll there for availability. Be
warned: many of the entries are "wanted," and not "for sale."
-- Rachel Walker