How to Hut: The top 10 reasons to go on a hut trip
by Molly Baker, Izzy Lynch, Megan Michelson, Devon O’Neil and Tess Weaver
No matter the goal, hut trips are synonymous with fun. If you’re a skier with any backcountry knowledge and even a small desire for adventure, don’t let another winter pass by without experiencing a night in a mountain hut. The day could bring navigation challenges, frostbite, blisters and fear of spending the night under a space blanket, but the night will include a soft bed, card games, a warm dinner and memories around a crackling woodstove. Pack a map, some food, a med kit, a sleeping bag and down booties, and get on your way. Here’s some advice and inspiration to get you on your way to the best (and cheapest) trip of your winter.
Why go on a hut trip?
1. It’s an alpine slumber party.
2. As long as you can find the hut and build a fire, you’re guaranteed a warm, dry night’s sleep.
3. You can access terrain you’d never get to in one day.
4. You can complete a point-to-point route without having to backcountry camp.
5. Alcohol tastes better in a hut.
6. Bacon tastes better in a hut.
7. You can spend time with your friends and/ or family without a wireless connection.
8. It’s always an adventure.
9. It’s a great first date if you want to see what he or she is made of.
10. Downtime at the hut is an opportunity to practice locating a buried beacon.
1. Research and plan. Consider fitness levels, snow conditions and terrain goals. Be prepared for the approach—routes are sometimes six to seven miles, with substantial climbing and require backcountry skiing skills.
2. Reserve ahead. Plan early when booking a weekend. Midweek reservations are easier. You can book an entire hut or single spots, which might mean sharing the hut with other groups.
3. Route finding is crucial. Know how to use a topographic map and a compass. If your group lacks navigational skills, consider hiring a guide.
4. Everyone in the group should have some level of avalanche education. Start with a formal course. Beginning weeks before and leading through your trip, monitor weather and snow conditions via local avalanche forecasts and online forums.
5. It always takes longer to get to the hut than you think. Start earlier than you want to. Pack a headlamp, just in case.
6. Get familiar with your equipment long before the trip. Don’t use the trip to break in new boots or test out a pack.
7. Avoid over packing. Items should be lightweight and compact. Plan out your meals to share Sherpaing duties with the group. Pack lightly; you’ll be plenty warm skinning and sitting by the fire. And that woodstove will dry everything overnight.
8. Always travel and ski with a beacon, shovel and probe. And know how to use them.
Looking to explore a totally new zone or sleep in a hut that’s not as old as dirt? Check out one of these backcountry huts recently opened in North America.
Point Breeze Cabin, CO
This one-year-old cabin near Leadville, Colorado, is privately owned, but you reserve a bed through the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. Bring deep lungs: The hut is at 10,500 feet in elevation, near the top of the Continental Divide. $33/person/night, huts.org
Points North, AK
In 2011, Alaska’s Points North Heli-Adventures obtained a nonmotorized ski touring permit and opened their “Arctic Oven” tents to the public last winter. You’ll get dropped off by a heli and then ski tour from there. $45/person/night (8 people, 7 nights), alaskaheliski.com
Broome Hut, CO
Part of the future Grand Huts system that will eventually link nine huts over Colorado’s Berthoud Pass, the Broome Hut is the first, and it was just completed this fall. It sleeps up to 16 people. $35/person/night, grandhuts.org
Cascade Huts, OR
Two new huts opened this summer on Mt. Hood, Oregon, for hut-to-hut mountain biking and backcountry skiing. Each hut is stocked with a stove, lamps, cooking supplies and sleeping bags. $19-$30/person/night, cascadehuts.com
Opus Hut, CO
Opened in 2011, the Opus Hut in Colorado’s San Juans (the nearest town is Ophir) has solar-powered electricity and hot water and a true novelty: indoor plumbing. $35/person/night, opushut.com
Weekend Warrior Huts:
Here are five huts easy to reach from major metro areas for your quick-in, quick-out skiing pleasure.
Denver: Francie’s Cabin, an 80-mile drive from Denver followed by a 1.5-mile skin, offers high-alpine skiing and a wood-fueled sauna. $35/person/night, summithuts.org
San Francisco: Accessed off Donner Summit, three hours from the city, the Peter Grubb Hut delivers powdery bowls and a cozy A-frame. $55-$60/person/night, sierraclub.org
Portland: Ninety minutes from Portland, the Barlow Butte Hut provides gorgeous views of Mt. Hood and quality skiing. $150/night for the whole hut, cascadehuts.com
Seattle: The Scottish Lakes High Camp, a nine-cabin commune surrounded by remote powder stashes, is two hours from downtown. $60-$90/person/night, scottishlakes.com
Vancouver: Just north of Whistler, you’ll find tranquility and world-class terrain at the Wendy Thompson Hut in Marriott Basin. $12/person/night, accwhistler.ca
Below are 16 of the greatest backcountry huts, yurts and refuges from Chamonix to California, New Hampshire to Argentina.
Access ratings are from one to 10: One being a tram ride or heli drop and 10 being a serious slog. Terrain ratings are from one to 10: One being mellow tree skiing and 10 being serious big-mountain lines. Pricing is per night, per person unless otherwise noted.
1. Amiskwi Lodge, Golden, British Columbia
Amiskwi raises the luxury bar for backcountry hut living with a cushy log cabin, indoor toilets and a wood-burning sauna perched at treeline. A 20-minute heli ride from Golden, it’s best known for its friendly glade skiing and tantalizing views of the Freshfields Icefields, but when conditions are right, steep alpine lines are there for the taking.
Price: $850/week (includes heli) amiskwi.com
2. Baldy Knoll Yurt, Teton Range, Wyoming
A cozy yurt perched on the western slope of the Tetons, Baldy Knoll has endless powder slaying opportunities. Out your door are daunting chutes to powdery aprons, basins, trees, and for the more ambitious, big Teton lines and traverses, such as the one you can do on your last day, ending with beer in Teton Village.
Price: $44/$49 (plus tax, weekday/weekend) skithetetons.com
3. Bell Lake Yurt, Tobacco Root Range, Montana
To get to Montana’s Bell Lake Yurt, located an hour from Bozeman, you’ll take a short snowmobile ride, then skin two and a half miles and 1,700 vertical feet. Your reward? Powder-filled bowls and couloirs throughout the Bell Lake cirque and a 450-square-foot yurt that sleeps six and allows dogs. Go for the catered option—the huckleberry pancakes are worth the extra fee.
Price: ~$41 skimba.com
4. Bill Putnam Hut, Adamants Range, British Columbia
The Bill Putnam Hut (or Fairy Meadows Hut, as it’s commonly referred to) is surrounded by granite peaks and glaciers. Access is a 20-minute heli from the staging area. Combine 4,000-foot runs, couloirs, steep north facing lines and deep Selkirk pow and it’s no wonder that Fairy Meadows is the most popular hut in B.C. A lottery takes place in the spring each year, so plan ahead if you want to book.
Price: $875/week (includes heli) alpineclubofcanada.ca
5. Cajón Grande Refuge, Las Leñas, Argentina
Within a day from the refugio, one can ski a steep 5,000-foot run from Cerro Campanario, a classic 12,795-foot peak. Chamonix snowboarding legends Serge Cornillat and Serge Vitelli run the hut, which has six hot spring tubs nearby and serves traditional asados. Stays are typically one week, as the three-hour bus ride from Malargue to the staging area in Los Loicas only runs on Sundays. From there, it’s a 4×4 drive or horse ride to the refugio.
Price: $60 (includes meals) cajongrande.com
6. Cosmique Refuge, Chamonix, France
At 11,850 feet and just a short hike down from the Aiguille du Midi, the Cosmique is one of the most famous backcountry lodges in the world. If you’re going in the spring, book early, and get ready to have your mind blown. From the Vallée Blanche to some of the gnarliest ski terrain on earth, the hut is a launching pad.
Price: ~$45 (includes breakfast) 33(0)450544016
7. Eiseman Hut, Vail, Colorado
The Eiseman Hut is the 10th Mountain’s most alpine hostel and offers arguably the best skiing in the hut system. Within the rugged and scarcely accessed Gore Range, numerous faces and couloirs abound. There are even some steep treed shots nearby when the weather moves in. The massive and newly remodeled structure is more of a chalet than a hut and sleeps 16 people. The reward comes at a price—the skin in is roughly eight miles.
Price: $33 huts.org
8. Emilio Frey, Refuge, Bariloche, Argentina
Frey Refuge is a gateway to classic Argentine Andes skiing. A spectacular epicenter of tempting spire-flanked descents surround the hut. The solar and wind-powered structure boasts a caretaker, a cat, character-filled common space, kitchen, and upstairs bunkroom.
Price: 80 ARS (~$17) clubandino.org/refugios-y-campings
9. Lammernhütte, Bernese Alps, Switzerland
As Swiss Alpine Club huts go, the Lammerenhütte is a freeskiing paradise. Gorgeous and glaciated terrain surrounds the large stone structure—which is perched on a cliff—like a cathedral. And the access village of Leukerbad is as charming as any you’ll find in the Alps.
Price: $70 CHF (~$75, includes half board) laemmerenhuette.ch
10. Opus Hut, Silverton, CO
Relatively new, Opus is a beautiful, off the grid, backcountry skier’s take on a luxury ski vacation (heated floors! running water!). Entirely off the grid with more amenities than most huts, plus a caretaker, Opus accesses the gamut of ski terrain, from safe zones during high avy danger to steep faces, couloirs, and challenging features to get rad on.
Price: $35 opushut.com
11. Ostrander Hut, Yosemite National Park, California
One of the Sierra’s winter gems is the 71-year-old Ostrander Hut, a two-story, lakeside cabin located deep in Yosemite National Park and surrounded by a glacial cirque that holds prime ski lines. The stone hut is hard to reach with an approach of up to 10 miles, but that doesn’t temper its popularity, so plan ahead.
Price: $35/$55 (weekday/weekend) yosemiteconservancy.org
12. Snowbird Hut, Hatcher Pass, Alaska
Perched on the edge of the Snowbird Glacier in the Talkeetna Mountains, the newly remodeled Snowbird Hut is rumored to be the best in Alaska. Accessible from Archangel Valley on Hatcher Pass, the 8-by-18 foot hut sleeps six comfortably, but you can squeeze in a dozen. It’s part of the Bomber Traverse, a classic Alaska hut-to-hut trek. Pollux Aviation provides helicopter charters to the hut.
Price: Free americanalpineclub.org
13. Snytindhytta, Gullesfjord, Norway
Deep powder. Fjords. Dramatic peaks. World-class descents. Northern lights. Sauna. Appealing? Fly into Harstad for this isolated backcountry stash, one of over 1,000 ski huts in Norway. The hut gets significantly more snow than nearby areas, and has the terrain to match. Be prepared: buy maps, do research, and contact the hut association.
Price: 200 NOK per group (~$35)/night ut.no/hytte/snytindhytta
14. Wallowa Alpine Huts, Wallowa Mountains, Oregon
Anyone who says there’s not good skiing in eastern Oregon hasn’t been to the 10,000-foot-high Wallowas, which get 400 inches of dry snow each winter and offer high-alpine steeps and gladed, old-growth trees. Choose from three separate yurts or have an animated guy named Zobott guide you on a Euro-style hut-to-hut trip.
Price: $200/person (3 night package, $250 First-Day-Guide fee for new users) wallowahuts.com
15. Wuhrstein Alm Hut, Chiemgua Alps, Germany
The Alps are stocked with hut systems perched along traverses through gnarly terrain. If you don’t have glacier travel skills, head to the Wuhrstein Alm. Cozy living and Austrian food go along with stellar skiing: open bowls, steeps, and exposed ridges that lead to endless backcountry options.
Price: 22 euro (~$28.50, includes breakfast) wuhrsteinalm.de
16. Zealand Falls Hut, White Mountains, New Hampshire
With nearby waterfalls to huck and a healthy forest to capture powder, the Zealand Falls Hut stands out among its Appalachian Mountain Club brethren for its ski terrain. It’s also located on the edge of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, so the chances you’ll run into other backcountry skiers are slim to none.
Price: Subject to dates and availability. outdoors.org/lodging
Five more yurts:
Yurts, circular tents originally made from wood and felt, have been used as dwellings by Mongolian nomads in central Asia for at least three thousand years. In the last few decades, however, yurts have become popular with a different culture: backcountry skiers. Here are five more yurts worth checking out.
Yurtopia Yurt, British Columbia
Operated in conjunction with Wildhorse Catskiing, you can access the Ymir Yurts via snowmobile, cat, or ski touring. Once you’re there, you’ll enjoy 2,000-vertical-foot descents and perfectly gladed trees.
From $39/person/night ymiryurts.com
Rendezvous Backcountry Tours, Wyoming
The only backcountry hut system in Wyoming’s Teton Range, Rendezvous offers guided hut-to-hut trips or yurt rental at their four backcountry yurts on the western slope of the Tetons.
From $44/person/night (plus tax) skithetetons.com
Williams Peak Yurt, Idaho
You and 13 friends can reserve these two Mongolian-style yurts, which sit side-by-side in Idaho’s northern Sawtooth range, at the base of some rugged ski terrain. Bonus: There’s a wood-fired sauna.
From $40/person/night (8 person minimum, $250 fee for first timers) sawtoothguides.com
40 Tribes, Kyrgyzstan
Opened in 2010 by Coloradoan Ryan Koupal, 40 Tribes’ handmade yurt sits in a remote range in Kyrgyzstan. You’ll skin up a path used by locals tracking wolves and renowned Canadian mountaineer Ptor Spricenieks will be your guide.
From $150/person/night fortytribesbackcountry.com
Three Sisters Yurt, Oregon
These two yurts in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness have stocked kitchens, a wood-fired sauna, and access to 280,000 acres of bowls and old-growth hemlock trees. You can even have the staff deliver a keg from the local Three Creeks Brewery.
From $45/person/night (2 person minimum) threesistersbackcountry.com
*This article originally appeared in the 2013 FREESKIER Backcountry Issue. All prices/rates are subject to change. Illustrations by Chris Hotz. Subscribe to the magazine, or get it on the iTunes Newsstand.
About the author:
Freeskier Magazine—This is skiing.