After skinning up the six-mile snowmobile road, we turn off onto what once was a trail, but is now covered by several feet of fresh snow. Our only source of direction is following the blue triangles nailed onto trees. The triangles are few and far between but we trudge on, continually hoping that over the next hill or past the next blue triangle we will arrive. Finally, we see it as it catches the last of the afternoon light: Uncle Buds Hut.
Hut trips are a great way to take the next step past resort skiing and you can rent all the gear you need for it. A hut trip is where you skin into a hut, typically six or seven miles in, and use that hut as your base camp as you backcountry ski for multiple days. You can also backpack from hut-to-hut and change your location as often as you want.
Before a trip, make sure you check and book a bed in the hut. These can fill up fast, especially on popular weekends, so reserve them ahead of time. Additionally, always check and see if the avalanche forecast is safe.
Once you have booked your trip, rent gear if you don’t already own proper gear. Aside from your typical resort skiing gear you will need skis with alpine touring binding or a split board, ski boots with a walk mode, skins, a beacon, shovel, a probe, and a topographical map. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the gear before embarking on your trip.
The best hut service for beginners locally is the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association and you can begin browsing your destinations on their website. They also show their partnered huts, some of which have a sauna. All huts typically have a stove and hot water, so no need to carry that whisperlite.
It’s important to note that you should never embark on a hut trip without having at least one group member who has been to a hut before, can route find, has a medical certification like WFR, and has taken avalanche safety courses. It is essential that every group member know how to operate a beacon, shovel, and probe.
Hut trips are best for block breaks or springs break; however, if you are experienced and in shape they are doable in a weekend trip. They are a great way to take that transition into more adventurous skiing.
If you want to learn a little bit about backcountry skiing before a hut trip, there is a beginner’s backcountry ski trip this Saturday headed out to Monarch Pass. Email Austin Miller (email@example.com) for details.