Top Skiing Destinations: Best Huts in Colorado

Updated:

Colorado is renowned as a winter wonderland, with its towering snow-capped peaks, blankets of powdery snow, and endless backcountry ripe for exploration. And what better way to experience the majesty of the Colorado mountains in winter than by staying in one of its iconic backcountry huts? Scattered throughout the state’s most spectacular terrain, Colorado’s backcountry huts offer adventurous skiers warm refuge, epic skiing, and memories to last a lifetime.

TL;DR

  • Colorado has an extensive system of backcountry huts perfect for ski touring and winter adventures.
  • Staying in mountain huts allows access to incredible ski terrain without the crowds.
  • The 10th Mountain Division Hut Association manages a network of 34 huts connected by over 350 miles of trails.
  • Popular huts like Shrine Mountain Inn, Francie’s Cabin, and Sangree M. Froelicher offer comfortable lodging and epic skiing.
  • Hut trips require proper planning, safety precautions, and specialized backcountry ski gear.

A Winter Wonderland Beckons

Blanketed in mounds of featherweight powder, the rugged peaks of the Colorado backcountry create a magical winter wonderland for skiers. This is a mecca for enthusiasts of ski touring—using free-heel skis to climb and descend mountain terrain. What draws ski tourers to Colorado is the phenomenal skiing and the opportunity to access this winter paradise far from the crowds of resorts.

Backcountry huts scattered throughout Colorado’s most spectacular mountain ranges offer the perfect base for hut-to-hut ski tours. These rustic shelters provide remote and scenic lodging deep in the wilderness, surrounded by endless rows of snow-draped peaks. Staying overnight in a warm and cozy backcountry hut allows you to fully immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature and maximize your time carving through fresh corduroy before returning at the end of the day.

From the legendary 10th Mountain Division hut system to independent establishments like Shrine Mountain Inn, Colorado’s backcountry huts grant you access to the state’s most glorious terrain. These mountain oases offer much more than just a place to eat and sleep. They provide the chance to connect with nature, bond with friends old and new, and collect memories that will last a lifetime.

The Famed 10th Mountain Division Hut Network

The 10th Mountain Division is America’s most extensive system of backcountry huts, with 34 shelters sprinkled throughout Colorado’s mountains. Developed by 10th Mountain Division veterans returning from WWII, these huts honor the legacy of the U.S. Army’s mountain warfare specialists. They now connect over 350 miles of trails traversing some of Colorado’s most spectacular terrain, making them some of the best huts for skiing in the backcountry.

The 10th Mountain Division huts range from small and cozy to larger lodges that sleep 20+ people. While rustic, they contain all the necessities like stoves, cookware, toilets, lighting, beds with mattresses, and more. Most huts are staffed part-time by volunteer hutmasters who maintain supplies and ensure smooth operation.

Among the most popular 10th Mountain Division huts is Francie’s Cabin, perched remotely in the Sawatch Range near Aspen. This hut offers easy access to legendary areas like Star Pass, Twining Peak, and the Anthracite Range. Larger groups love the Sangree M. Froelicher Hut. This newer hut, built in 2010, provides comfortable lodging and skiing on the beautiful Eagles Nest Wilderness terrain.

No discussion of the 10th Mountain Division Huts is complete without mentioning the legendary Shrine Mountain Inn. This spacious lodge, built in 1939, lies secluded near Vail Pass, surrounded by the stunning Shrine Ridge area known for its extreme skiing.

Epic Skiing Awaits

A winter hut trip here allows you to trace the tracks of 10th Mountain Division soldiers across high alpine bowls, through forest glades, and down steep fall line shots. The skiing possibilities from these remote shelters seem endless.

In addition to the 10th Mountain Division Association huts, Colorado contains dozens of independent backcountry lodges. These include remote outposts like the Eiseman Hut, perched at 11,200 feet in the Gore Range, which provides easy access to the famed Vail Pass backcountry. The Broome Hut, south of Breckenridge, offers ski-in/ski-out access to the pristine terrain of the Lost Creek Wilderness.

Wherever your Colorado hut trip takes you, a wonderland of skiing awaits right out your door. You can break trail through fresh blankets of champagne powder in untouched bowls, weave between snow-laden trees on gentle glades through the forest, or test your skills on steep chutes and rock-lined couloirs for extreme skiing. The backcountry terrain seems limitless, and you’ll often find yourself alone in complete tranquility.

Local Culture and Cuisine

A winter hut trip here offers so much more than world-class skiing. These remote mountain lodges provide the perfect opportunity to disconnect from daily life and connect more deeply with friends, family, and the peaceful mountain environment.

Apres-ski during a hut trip is an experience unto itself. As the last light fades behind distant peaks, you’ll gather inside the toasty hut with fellow adventurers to share stories, laughter, food, and drink by lantern light. You may find seasoned locals who can suggest favorite nearby lines to ski or take you on a moonlit snowshoe tour.

You’ll also get a taste of the historic 10th Mountain Division culture through artifacts displayed in many huts. And the food — hearty, delicious meals incorporating local ingredients really nourish the body and soul after a long day touring the backcountry.

Essential Planning for an Epic Adventure

A hut ski trip is a true Western adventure that requires careful preparation and the right gear. As the 10th Mountain Hut Association notes, “Our huts provide access to areas featuring extreme winter conditions and demanding routes” where self-rescue may be required. So, proper fitness level, winter backcountry skills, navigation abilities, and avalanche awareness are essential.

You’ll need a specialized backcountry skiing setup allowing you to climb and descend rugged alpine terrain. This includes free-heel skis, climbing skins, boots, bindings with walk/ski modes, lightweight avalanche safety gear, and more. Expect to do lots of vertical climbing on tours up to 8 miles long and reaching over 12,000 feet elevation. 3 So cardio fitness and acclimatization to altitude are key.

Smart trip planning is also critical when heading out to remote mountain huts. Carefully check weather and avalanche forecasts to understand risks before departing. Pack proper layers, emergency gear, navigation/communication devices, and plenty of food.

Leave detailed itineraries with family/friends, and consider rental satellite communicators. When booking 10th Mountain Division Huts months in advance, carefully review hut details like capacity, route mileage/difficulty, summer access, and amenities. 3

Embark on an Unforgettable Adventure

A winter hut trip allows you to experience Colorado’s magnificent backcountry in a way few get to enjoy — resting comfortably each night in remote lodges after days spent carving through endless powder.

Connect with friends and family, rich local cultures, and the breathtaking natural splendor protected in these special mountain places. Ski steep fall lines never touched by another track, relax in off-grid simplicity, and collect memories to cherish for a lifetime.

When planned properly using reliable information, maps, gear, and precautions, a Colorado ski hut adventure promises to exceed your highest expectations.

FAQ

How do I make reservations at Colorado ski huts?

Most ski huts, like those in the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association network, require reservations made online or by phone, generally months in advance. Independent huts have their own booking procedures but also suggest booking early.

What is the best time of year to visit Colorado ski huts?

For the best skiing conditions, plan your ski hut trip during the peak winter months between January and April, when the snowpack is deepest. Some backcountry huts offer access in other seasons as well.

What gear and supplies do I need to bring?

Carefully check hut association/operator websites for recommended gear lists. You’ll need a backcountry ski touring setup, avalanche safety equipment, navigation/communication devices, sleeping bags, food, etc.

How physically demanding are the ski tours to/from huts?

The 10th Mountain Division Huts note that their average winter route mileages range from 2 to 8 miles, with elevations reaching 12,440 feet. 3 So expect challenging, high-altitude ski mountaineering to reach the huts.

Do I need avalanche safety training for hut trips?

The 10th Mountain Division Huts strongly recommends completing a minimum level 1 avalanche safety course before touring the backcountry terrain around the huts. Always check conditions and understand risks before heading out.

Shannon-Persad

About the author

Shannon Persad

As a seasoned journalist and Colorado native, I bring a deep-rooted connection and comprehensive understanding of Colorado to my work at ReadyColorado.com. My appreciation for the state’s rich history, vibrant culture, and pressing environmental issues drives my commitment to exploring its evolving landscape—from the bustling urban centers to the tranquil mountain towns.