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Backcountry getaways

Traci J. Macnamara
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
CVR cabins KA 12-19-11
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Besides more snow, mountain people want something just as simple: more mountains. And many Vail Valley residents are finding creative ways to experience mountain landscapes in remote getaways that put them closer to the reasons why they love this area in the first place.-

Edwards resident Kurt Kincel has spent the last seven years slowly building a mountain retreat in the Tennessee Pass area, a 40-minute drive upvalley from his primary home. When he bought a 4-acre mining claim and the 400-square-foot structure that sat on it, he knew he’d have many, many weekends of projects ahead of him.-

The cabin on the property was an uninsulated shell, a frame-only structure with a concrete floor and a few small windows. But Kincel, who owns a landscaping business and is a part-time ski guide for Paragon Guides, saw potential in the place and its surroundings.- —



“I grew up in upstate New York, where having a cabin is just part of the culture,” he said. “And even though I technically live in the mountains, I wanted to have a place where I could escape the crowds to ski in the backcountry and hang out with friends.”

But what Kincel has found in this place goes deeper than that.-

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



In contrast to his fast-paced summer landscaping business, Kincel’s cabin projects unfold on a sliding schedule. Last winter, when the snow started falling, he abandoned a timber-frame sauna project and took advantage of the good skiing conditions. With the help of Fiddler Creek Company’s Greg Dennis, Kincel worked on the sauna slowly over the summer and just lit up the wood stove, so now it’s ready this winter instead.- —

Kincel’s cabin, which lacks electricity and running water, has become a place where he can slow down and enjoy the high-country views from his deck.

“This place reminds me that I don’t really need all that much to be happy,” he said.—-



The Cocchiarellas of East Vail, likewise, have found simple pleasures in a remote mountain getaway. The family owns a plot of land near the defunct Marble ski area, about a two-hour drive from Vail. They converted an existing 170-squre-foot storage shed with shelves into a cozy cabin with bunk beds and a wood stove for their family of four.

Such a tiny space might seem unfathomably tight, but Tucker Cocchiarella, 17, explains how it has contributed to family bonding.

“We pull in our gear with sleds at night when we arrive, and we don’t have cell phone coverage,” he said. “So when we’re there, it’s just about us and our time together.”

Cocchiarella goes on to explain that his idea of a true mountain experience involves sharing time in the wilderness with his family, which is something he doesn’t get in their comparably metropolitan East Vail mountain home.

Buying a remote mountain property and spending long weekend on cabin projects might not be for everyone, but, still, the opportunity exists for Vail Valley residents to experience more of the backcountry, even if they don’t want to have a getaway of their own.

Lee Rimel, 70, is spending his retirement making sure that more people have the opportunity to experience the mountains in their natural state, accessed by human power and appreciated in simple settings. Rimel owns and operates the two newest 10th Mountain Division Huts, the Continental Divide Cabin and Point Breeze, which opened in November 2007 and November 2011, respectively.

Both cabins sleep eight people and are located on Rimel’s 20-acre property atop Tennessee Pass. They can be reserved through the 10th Mountain Division Hut System’s website, which offers bookings for nearly 30 other backcountry cabins in Colorado, at http://www.huts.org. Rimel’s cabins are accessible by less than a mile of snowshoeing or skiing in the winter, making them what he calls a “perfect introductory backcountry experience.”

And enthusiasts of the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse, a beloved dining location, will be happy to hear that two sleep yurts have just opened for overnight guests. The yurts, which are round structures originally used as dwellings by Central Asian nomads, sleep up to six people each and are located a short walk from the cookhouse yurt, a one-mile hike or ski from the parking lot at Ski Cooper.

For those who haven’t experienced either the cookhouse or the new sleep yurts, co-owner Roxanne Hall offers one more reason: “The stars. You can see stars on clear nights through the dome windows.” That’s something you can’t get in a closed-roof cabin or mountain home.

Whether you’re looking to realize the dream of a remote mountain escape or to have a weekend away, there are plenty of inspiring options that spring, most simply, from the mountains themselves.


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