By Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan
A day of quad-burning Nordic skiing through Colorado’s snowy scenery, followed by a night kicking back in front of a fire in a backcountry haven? We can’t resist, either. Here are a few of the state’s best hut-trip options for every ability level.
Grass Creek Yurt
The southernmost yurt in the never Summer nordic system, this cozy 16-foot shelter lies just .7 mile from the trailhead—making it ideal for families and first-time skiers. The flat trail follows Grass Creek along the edge of a forest (with little avalanche danger) and delivers skiers to the well-stocked yurt. From there, novices can explore the area’s meadows or take an easy tour through the valley on the north side of the creek, back toward the road. For a challenge, ski the old logging roads up to Gould mountain, where intermediate-level telemark terrain awaits. Tip: Pack an extra warm sleeping bag—yurts tend to get a bit chillier than huts do.
OUT YOU GO
Trailhead North Fork Michigan Trailhead, Colorado State Forest (75 miles west of Fort Collins)
Amenities Beds for five, two mattresses for the floor, woodstove, propane cook stove, kitchenware, outhouse
Cost $90/night on weekdays; $110/night on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
State Parks pass required for parking.
Elevation 9,040 feet
Reservations Book up to a year in advance by calling 970-723-4070.
Hinsdale Haute Route Huts
A string of high-elevation ski shelters smack in the middle of the stunning San Juan mountains—which also happen to be in one of the least-populated counties in america? For epic Colorado alpine views and solitude, it doesn’t get any better than this. This system of three yurts—Jon Wilson memorial, rambouillet (pronounced “ram-bo-lay”), and Colorado Trail Friends—lie along a 10,000 foot-plus, gently undulating ridge that follows the old la Garita stock trail. There’s little elevation gained or lost along the trails, making the trip suitable for strong beginners and intermediate-level skiers—but be prepared for exposure and harsh weather along with the wide-open views. route-finding skills are essential in case of bad weather.
OUT YOU GO
Trailhead Sawmill Park Road Trailhead, Rio Grande National Forest (15 miles southeast of Lake City)
Amenities Cots and bunks, woodstove, propane cookstove, lights, out-yurts
Cost $100/night for the first two nights; $75 each additional night
Capacity 8 each
Elevation 10,450 feet ( Jon Wilson Memorial); 11,680 feet (Rambouillet); 11,800 feet (Colorado Trail Friends Memorial)
Reservations Call Jerry at 970-944-2269
High in the elk mountains, this log-cabinstyle hut serves as the ideal link between the ski-crazy towns of Crested Butte and Aspen—but you’ll have to earn it. Located in a stunning spot beneath Star Peak, Crystal Peak, and Pearl Pass, getting to the hut from Crested Butte requires a strenuous 11-mile approach along brush Creek. Get there and you’ll be surrounded by alpine bowls, remote woods, and miles of touring terrain. however, this trip is for experienced skiers only—avalanches are a very real danger all along the route, and breaking trail to the hut requires stamina, route-finding skills, and self sufficiency.
OUT YOU GO
Trailhead East River Trailhead, White River National Forest (About 5 miles southeast of Crested Butte)
Amenities Loft, beds, woodstove, propane cook stove, lights, kitchenware
Cost $25/person/night ($18.75/person/ night if booking the whole cabin)
Elevation 11,370 feet
Reservations Hut is booked through the Tenth Mountain Division Hut Association.Call 970-925-5775; Tenth Mountain Division members can also apply for the hut through the early lottery system starting on May 1.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2009 Issue (1001) of Trail & Timberline.