The Best of Colorado: Adventure to a Ski Hut

I remember my first trip to a Colorado backcountry ski hut like it was yesterday. But it wasn’t yesterday. Instead, it was 2009 when I got the ingenious idea to tackle one of Colorado’s famous 10th Mountain Division Huts. I rounded up a crew of friends that agreed and set about planning the trip.

Except one problem. None of us had a clue what we were doing.

We all knew we wanted to ski…except none of us had a backcountry setup. Not to be deterred, we came up with a Plan B: we’d snowshoe into the hut and carry all of our alpine ski gear on our backpacks, along with our needed food, clothing, sleeping bags, water, etc. Great plan, right?

Theoretically, it was a great plan since it worked. But in reality, the group of us carrying skis experienced an ass kicking like we’d never seen before. With the addition of our skis and ski boots, our backpacks weighed upwards of 50-60 pounds. I had felt so fortunate to book Betty Bear since  it was one of two huts with available space left {The other available hut was Skinner Hut.} Turns out, that wasn’t a coincidence: Betty Bear is a 7 mile skin in with some 2100 feet of gain. The kicker is that the majority of that elevation gain is in the last mile or two as you hike through a thick grove of trees. Not only were we gasping for air under the weight of our stupid heavy packs, but I continually caught my A-framed skis in various branches, knocking me into snow banks. And do you know how hard it is to crawl out of the snow with a 60 pound backpack full of skis?!

Ski Hut

The more you know: Skinner and Betty Bear are *always* the last two huts booked since they have the most difficult ascents. We did Skinner a few years ago and ended up tromping around in the woods at midnight, having yet to arrive at our destination. We eventually found the hut and agreed that Skinner was one of the cooler ski huts we’d seen…..except none of us are willing to skin that route again!

Since 2009, I’ve learned a lot about the ski hut system in Colorado. It helps that I have a backcountry setup now, but I’ve also learned a ton about what gear I want, what extras are ideal to have, and what I can leave at home. {I’m looking at you, pots and pans that I carried in that first year!}

More importantly, Will and I have been able to branch out and explore the huge network of ski huts that Colorado offers. The 10th Mountain Division has a bunch of them, for sure. But most people don’t realize that there are dozens of ski huts scattered throughout the mountains, just waiting to be booked and explored. Some are rustic while others are fancy, but they all have one thing in common: you’re sure to have a good time.

Choose Your Colorado Ski Hut Adventure

Uncle Bud’s Hut

Uncle Bud’s tops the list of my favorite backcountry ski huts. But here’s the thing about Uncle Buds: it’s not really a ski hut. In fact, the first time I skied up to it, I was amazed at the size and overall luxurious feeling of the interior. It’s like a freaking backcountry palace!

Ski Hut

PC: Will Rochfort

The hut was built outside of Leadville as a memorial to 10th Mountain Division vet Bud Winter who was killed in action in Italy during World War II. The hut is beautiful. It sleeps 16 people easily, stretched out between two private bedrooms {one sleeps 6, the other sleeps 4} and a communal room that has one double bed and four singles. The beds are all located upstairs; the downstairs is completely dedicated to the kitchen, dining area, and living space near the wood burning stove.

Ski Hut

The views of Mount Massive from the living room are epic on a clear day, but the nearby skiing is even better. We also go with a mixed group of snowshoers and skiers, and there is plenty of fun for everyone. If you want some burly skiing, it can be found in the nearby couloirs. If mellow is more your jam, it’s about a 25 minute skin up to a low-angle meadow full of untouched snow that you can lap for days. The snowshoers in our group like to carry up sleds so they can get in on this action!

If You Go: Uncle Bud's Hut

Trailhead: Turquoise Lake

Mileage: 5.9 miles {unless the road is open. If so, someone can drive you up further and drop you off, but they still need to return the car and ski the distance themselves}

Elevation gain: 1640 feet of gain

Nokhu Hut

Nokhu Hut is about as opposite as one could get from Uncle Bud’s but it makes me love it all the more!

Ski Hut

Noku is part of the Never Summer Nordic Yurt system located in northern Colorado near State Forest State Park. While Uncle Bud is quite large, Noku is teeny tiny. The website claims this ski hut sleeps six but we find it much more comfortable with four people. But, the huts are so inexpensive that’s it isn’t tough to justify the cost for four people.

The skin into Noku is practically nothing; it’s a whopping 1.5 miles from trailhead to cabin. This makes it perfect if you get up there late on a Friday night. I’ve done this skin as a moonlight tour without any problems!

Inside, the hut is bare bones but completely comfortable. Two bunk beds are on one side, each with a double bed on the bottom. A small propane stove, table and chairs, and a wood-burning stove round out the hut. But it’s not really what’s inside that matters, because outside has some amazing turns!

Ski Hut

Snowshoers and skiers alike can head up to nearby Lake Agnes for some beautiful scenery. The Nokhu Crags and the proposed-but-never-happed 7 Utes ski resort are both in the area, and we’ve had some fun exploring them all.

If You Go: Nokhu Hut

Trailhead: Marked: South side of Colorado Highway 14 approx. 2 miles west of Cameron Pass.

Mileage: 1.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 540 feet of gain

Opus Hut

I’ll admit that I’ve never been to Opus Hut in the winter, but I’d really like to. I visited last summer for the first time and the hut blew me away.

Ski Hut

You see, Opus isn’t like any of the other huts on this list. It’s not bare bones, it’s not completely inexpensive, and you don’t have to cart in your own food. It’s a beautiful 16-person cabin constructed by owner and caretaker Bob Kingsley. He lives in with you and cooks you breakfast, dinner and apres soup every day. Trust me when I say that these are much better than any dehydrated-in-a-bag-meal you’ve ever had! Additionally, Opus is in southwestern Colorado near Silverton and Telluride, so it’s in an entirely different part of the state.

The entire ski hut is solar powered and has filtered hot and cold drinking water. Did I mention Opus also has in-floor solar thermal heating?! Composting toilets are indoors so you don’t have to go outside in the cold to an outhouse. There is also an a la carte bar if you fancy a beverage after a long day of skiing.

Ski Hut

In the summer, you can drive up the road to a parking lot that’s a mere 1/4 mile from the hut. In the winter, the road is closed and you’re looking at a 3.5 mile skin up. Honestly, I can’t wait to come back and do this!

If You Go: Opus Hut

Trailhead: The winter trailhead/parking for the Opus Hut is the summer turnout at the beginning of the Ophir pass road, 5 miles north of Silverton on Hwy 550

Mileage: 3.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1500 feet of gain

The Montgomery Pass Yurts

These two yurts–Lower and Upper Montgomery Yurts–are also part of the Never Summer Nordic system in northern Colorado. I slept in Lower Montgomery, but as the name suggests, we’re talking about a ski yurt rather than a ski hut!

Ski Hut

The two yurts are close together so you can rent one or both if you have a big group. And honestly, there is something completely cool about sleeping in a yurt. Like a teepee on a platform, the yurts still have a front door and windows. Everything inside is simply circular, but it feels so cozy. A wood-burning stove keeps these suckers warm, too, especially since they are smaller. On our first visit, we had the interior temp up to a sweltering 90 degrees–and it was -10 outside!

Ski Hut

Ski Hut

We’ve been told that great intermediate-advanced backcountry skiing exists in the area, but we’ve yet to find it. That said, we’ve found some really fun touring with lots of beautiful scenery and wildlife. I swear, you can’t go into this part of the state without running into a moose!

If You Go: Montgomery Pass Yurts

Trailhead: Jackson County Road 41 – 5 miles from the main park entrance on the right side of CR 41 at the sign for the Bockman Campground Road

Mileage: 2.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 850 feet of gain

Benedict Huts

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve visited these huts; my first trip was in 2012. Nevertheless, I remember them fondly!

Ski Hut

The Benedict Huts are also part of the 10th Mountain Division, but they are different than Uncle Bud’s. Instead of one large ski hut, there are two structures connected by a wooden walkway. One sleeps 10 people and is referred to as Fritz Hut while the other sleeps six and is called Fabi Hut. Fritz and Fabi Benedict are known as the “spiritual parents” of the 10th Mountain Division, so it’s only fitting that some huts bear their names.

I didn’t own backcountry gear so my time at the Benedict Huts was largely spent building snowmen and sledding luges. But, these huts stand out in my memory for one obvious reason: the bathroom!

Ski Hut

True to form, the Benedict Huts have an outhouse  for the facilities. But the unique part is that two of the walls are made of plexiglass, affording the best-ever view while you’re doing your business. If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is!

If You Go: Benedict Huts

Trailhead: Hunter Creek

Mileage: 5.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 2500 feet of gain

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9 Comments

  • Reply Claude February 21, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Montgomery pass yurt picture: HEAVENLY with Moon, Starry sky, snow clad Christmas trees, and that glistening flake snowy path leading to the Yurt! Did you take that picture?
    I LOVE the Ocean and swimming, SUPping with Dolphins, but Jeez, I wanna go and skin and ski all day and night 🙂 I’m going to research all these Hut/Yurt systems. Lifts are great for civilized fun, but Backcountry is King!
    More please!

    • Reply Heather February 22, 2017 at 8:16 am

      My husband shot that photo on our trip to the yurts 🙂 It truly is a beautiful spot; that area of Colorado is relatively pristine and untouched. Silence for miles!

  • Reply Rachel @ Better LIVIN February 22, 2017 at 7:32 am

    These look so amazing! As soon as I’m out of school and back to work and my weekends are mine (and I have spending money) I want to hit all the amazing back country huts here in Canada!

    • Reply Heather February 22, 2017 at 8:16 am

      You guys have some good ones! I was just thinking of our honeymoon up there and how I’d love to get back!

  • Reply Patrice La Vigne February 22, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Love this post! We’ve only been to a handful of huts, but I hope to hit many more! Great suggestions!

  • Reply Lynn @ The Not Dead Yet Blog February 22, 2017 at 10:20 am

    I would love to visit the Opus hut in summer. Does it have wifi?

    • Reply Heather February 23, 2017 at 8:05 am

      I don’t remember for sure because it wasn’t a priority for me, but I’m willing to bet that it does not.

  • Reply Lara Jack February 23, 2017 at 1:27 am

    This is awesome! I love colorado, and I can’t wait to check out some of these cool spots when I go back in April! Thanks so much for all the info!

  • Reply daniel nash February 23, 2017 at 1:31 am

    Good info and colorado is a nice place too but colorado is the most expensive place. Please tell best ways to enjoy Denver on a budget.

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