Written by Backcountry Babes AIARE Level 1 Scholarship Recipient, Lauren Cabe. Lauren works with the PCIA and volunteers with National Sports Center For the Disabled in Winter Park, CO.
The Backcountry is an amazing place, especially in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Between the jagged peaks to the snowcapped forests there is a vast amount of beauty to be seen. The variety that Colorado brings provides endless opportunities for backcountry skiers. From an early morning tour before work to a weekend long hut trip, backcountry skiers will not be disappointed. 10th Mountain Division Hut Association is an organization that manages 34 backcountry hut systems in Colorado with 350 miles of suggested routes. These various routes provide a challenge for everyone from beginners to advanced skiers. This organization is filled with a vast amount of history as it honors the men who fought during World War II and displays their connection to the hut system. As you step into these huts, you will be educated on their history and how they have been used over the years. Below you will find the top 5 tips that will help you prepare for your first hut trip in Colorado.
5 Tips For a Hut Trip:
The most common way to collected water in the backcountry is snow melt. How easy, right? Melt the snow on the wood burning stove by packing in as much snow into a giant pot. You’ll need a little water in the bottom of the pot to get it started, otherwise the snow kinda “burns,” the little dusty particles and doesn’t melt as quickly.
Be sure to melt and then bring snow all the way to a boil to sanitize. Always smart to make extra water so you can have cool water later, and save a little for the next pot! Melting water on the stove is a constant process for cooking dinner, having tea and cocoa, washing dishes, creating drinking water, and making coffee. Get everyone on your team on board early and keep the snow melting constantly!
Colorado may be sunny 90% of the time, but just because the sun is out does not mean it will be warm. Always bring extra layers, especially for inside the huts as it is your responsibility to keep up with the fires to create heat for the place. A must is hut slippers to keep those toesies nice and warm!
Always be sure to check trip reports and make sure that you know where you are going. Many huts have markers on the trees that you can follow. I would suggest bringing a GPS with a downloaded map you can follow to make sure you are on track to your destination. Lastly, I would suggest bringing a good ol’ hard copy map and compass in case you run out of GPS batteries!
The hut systems in Colorado have great composting toilets, but do keep in mind that they are usually located away from the hut itself which means a nice little walk whether it’s clear skies or dumping snow. Bonus, they usually smell just fine!
Colorado often has often blue skies and sunny, but also plan for snow, wind, rain, hail, whiteout, and any kind of conditions. Be prepared for all weather, whether the forecast is calling for it or not. Always check the avalanche conditions before beginning your tour to the huts and continue to check the conditions before you head out every morning. If the avalanche conditions are too high to ski, the huts provide a wide variety of games, puzzles, and books to keep you entertained. Know before you go if your hike into the hut crosses in or our under avalanche terrain. Don’t be afraid to cancel the whole trip if the hike in or out will be too dangerous this time. If you haven’t already taken an AIARE Level 1 Course, think about taking one before your trip and go with a party that has good team work and a similar risk tolerance to yours.
Interested in a guided hut trip? Backcountry Babes offers guided & catered hut &l backcountry lodge trips in British Columbia, Japan and Iceland.