Best American Adventures: Backcountry Ski the 10th Mountain Division Huts
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By Kate Siber; Photograph by Pat Gaines
Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division Huts are the
fruits of one man’s crazy idea: Fritz Benedict, a 10th Mountain
Division soldier who fought in World War II and an Aspen architect,
dreamed of setting up a system of winter huts to rival the Alps’ Haute
Route. The results arguably outdid the Europeans at their own game.
Today, the system, located on the division’s former training grounds
between Aspen, Vail, and Leadville, is 14 huts strong and connects to
another 17 in the area. Linked with 300-plus miles (483-plus
kilometers) of skiable routes, it’s the largest system of its kind on
It also accesses the best of
Rocky Mountain skiing and a menu of terrain and scenery as diverse as
the state itself. Choose to stay at one or to link up several.
Backcountry beginners often head to the McNamara Hut, a stone’s throw
from mellow intermediate ski touring. Or, for seasoned alpine tourers
and telemarkers, the Eiseman Hut has access to steep couloirs and lines
that’ll grow hair on most anyone’s chest.
matter the level of challenge, the greatest reward is returning to the
huts themselves. “Hut,” in fact, might be a misnomer: These are more
like miniature trophy homes, with wood-fired heating stoves, propane
cook stoves, porches, private rooms, million-dollar views, and
sometimes even saunas. Come evening, after a long day and a good
dinner, kick back by the fire in the grand tradition of America’s
storied ski pioneers.
Need to Know: The 10th Mountain Division Hut Association (www.huts.org) holds a lottery for winter hut reservations every spring. Huts from $30 per person, and guides are available.
- Nat Geo Expeditions