Hut hopping: Find adventure at one of Colorado’s backcountry lodgings
Special to the Daily
Editor’s note: This story first ran in Vail Luxury Magazine, on newsstands now.
If your idea of an ideal winter weekend includes out-there adventure, off-the-beaten-path accommodation and unrestricted mountain views, then you’ll probably enjoy the excitement of planning a backcountry skiing or snowshoeing trip to one of Colorado’s backcountry huts, cabins or yurts. More than 30 of Colorado’s mountain huts are part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, named after the 10th Mountain Division soldiers who fought mountain warfare in WWII. But other backcountry lodgings also exist, from well-stocked cabins to yurts that extend beyond their traditional purpose of lodging Mongolian nomads.
Each of Colorado’s backcountry accommodations has its unique features and quirky charms. So if escaping the crowds and exploring wide swaths of untouched backcountry terrain sounds increasingly appealing, then let these noteworthy lodgings and their fun features inspire you into action this winter.
Since most of Colorado’s mountain huts, cabins and yurts are in remote locations, it’s important to have proper backcountry gear and know-how. Advance planning and preparation is essential. If you don’t have backcountry hiking or skiing experience, then consider hiring a local guide to accompany you. Happy hut-tripping this winter, and get out there to explore a new hut or two or three!
PET-FRIENDLY FUN: THE HIGH LONESOME HUT
Don’t fret over what to do with your furry friend when you go to the High Lonesome Hut near Winter Park. While pets aren’t allowed at most backcountry huts, they’re welcome at High Lonesome. This privately owned hut has a contained well for water, a shower, and unique mountain-inspired interior decor, plus it also has a relatively easy approach over rolling terrain, so it’s a good one for an introductory backcountry trip with family members or friends. Visit http://www.lonesomehut.com.
SMILE-WORTHY SAUNA: JANET’S CABIN
A sauna’s a great way to relax and unwind in the backcountry, and Janet’s Cabin delivers. This hut, which is a part of the Summit Huts Association, is accessible from the Copper Mountain ski area, and its interior sauna serves as a just reward for all of the effort you’ll put into exploring the stunning terrain just beyond the front deck. Visit http://www.summithuts.org/Janets.html.
AN OUTHOUSE WITH A VIEW: THE BENEDICT HUTS
The word “outhouse” doesn’t ordinarily conjure up pleasant thoughts, but when you’ve got to go in a backcountry setting, you’ll wish you were at one of the Benedict Huts near Aspen. These two huts, individually named Fritz and Fabi, offer more than a basic toilet experience, with floor-to-ceiling glass on two walls of the outhouse. This remote room with a view looks out upon the Elk Mountains while promising privacy at the same time. Visit http://www.huts.org/The_Huts/benedict.php.
ALL AGES AND ABILITIES: THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE AND POINT BREEZE CABINS
Grandkid and grandparent-friendly, these two huts that are part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association can be enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts of all abilities. They’re situated less than a mile away from their trailhead at Tennessee Pass near Leadville on relatively flat terrain, so they’re great for a first hut trip, and they’re also wheelchair and handicap accessibly by special arrangement. Visit http://www.huts.org.
SPECIAL OCCASION AND CELEBRATION: THE OPUS HUT
The privately owned Opus Hut is a deluxe backcountry lodge located between Silverton and Ophir. Like many other backcountry huts, the Opus Hut is a self-sufficient, off-the-grid structure, but it also has indoor composting toilets, in-floor heating and running water. Hut amenities including catering and meal package options for a special European-style hut experience with apres-ski soup, dinner and breakfast the following morning. Visit www.opushut.com.
WINE, DINE, SLEEP, AND SKI: THE TENNESSEE PASS COOKHOUSE AND SLEEP YURTS
The Tennessee Pass Cookhouse maintains an outstanding reputation as a gourmet backcountry dining experience. Hike, ski, or snowshoe into the cookhouse yurt for dinner, and when your belly’s full of elk tenderloin and red wine, it’s now possible to take a short walk over to your own private yurt for the evening. Wake up, and ski at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center trails just outside your door, or go on a guided cat-skiing adventure on Chicago Ridge, and you’ll have a backcountry experience like no other. Visit http://www.tennesseepass.com/sleep-yurts/what-to-expect.
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Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.