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New hut envisioned in Summit County

Bob Berwyn
Summit County Correspondent
Brad Odekirk/Summit Daily file photoJanet's Cabin, operated by the Summit Huts Association, is illuminated with pops of a strobe in a timed exposure as a starscape begins to swirl overhead.
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SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” The Summit Huts Association is considering several spots near Breckenridge for a new backcountry shelter, but proponents are wary of environmental concerns that scuttled the last effort.

The nonprofit organization may file a request with the U.S. Forest Service later this year after doing field studies this summer to learn about wildlife habitat and wetlands.

The last proposal for a new hut faltered in 2001 because of fears it would harm rare lynx traveling between Copper Mountain and Vail Pass.

The organization is taking a more careful approach, making sure to deal with those concerns early on, said Summit Huts President Dr. John Warner.

Development of a new 1,500-square-foot hut could cost about $400,000 to $500,000, Warner said.

“We’ve been going through the process with the Forest Service for several years. We discarded a couple of sites because of wildlife issues,” said Summit Huts Operations Manager Mike Zobbe.

Warner recently visited two potential spots with biologist Christi Carello, who also monitors a wetlands area ” known as Cucumber Gulch ” for the town of Breckenridge.

“We’re trying to put together a mini-environmental study related to wildlife issues,” Warner said.

An anonymous donation is funding the preliminary research, he said. One site is in Weber Gulch, on the north side of Bald Mountain, the other in Humbug Gulch on the west side of the Tenmile Range.

Along with answering Forest Service questions, the huts association also has to consider other factors, including parking.

Warner said older people and families with kids could reach Humbug Gulch hut because it’s only about a 45-minute trip from the trailhead.

It could also provide a more challenging experience for backcountry travelers looking to trek between huts. A rugged Tenmile Range route would connect Humbug Gulch with Francie’s Cabin, he said.

Summit Huts operates Francie’s Cabin, Janet’s Cabin and the Section House. All three are very popular with backcountry trekkers, and reservations for peak weekends sell out far in advance.

Zobbe the huts association wants to stop burning firewood and is considering using solar power to melt water instead of a wood stove.

“Our vision is for the lowest possible carbon footprint,” Zobbe said.


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