Warning: Hut trips can be addictive. The sense of accomplishment from travelling under your own power through the wintry woods with everything you need strapped on your back could be reward enough. And yet the best part comes when you arrive at a cozy cabin that is outfitted for your comfort; you know you made it safely and now it’s time to enjoy quality time with friends and family. Chances are good you’ll want to do it again and again.
Summit Huts Association (SHA) hosts two and a half cabins in the Breckenridge area that are beckoning you for your next adventure. The hut concept originated in Europe to give over-the-snow travelers secure accommodations in the rugged Alps. Unlike the European model which provides hut keepers, food, and fresh linens, the American model calls for self-sufficiency.
To travel to the Summit Huts (or one of the other 70+ huts and yurts in Colorado), you’ll need snowshoes or sturdy cross-country skis and a large backpack to carry your sleeping bag, food, route finding equipment and rescue gear. Once at the hut, you are responsible for collecting snow to melt for water, building a fire in the wood stove for warmth, and leaving the hut cleaner than you found it.
Lest you think you’ll be roughing it, all of the Summit huts have solar-powered lights, propane cooktops in the fully-equipped kitchen, ample firewood, and comfy beds with pillows. Some huts even have indoor composting toilets and wood-fired saunas.
“The huts are so popular because they offer a truly genuine experience,” according to Mike Zobbe, Executive Director of SHA. “You have to behave in a responsible way that is respectful of the people in your group, the hut, and your surroundings, offering a deeper connection to each other and the natural world. It’s not a managed experience and no one is there to take care of you like at a ski resort.”
For many novices, a hut trip can be one of the most challenging things they’ve ever done and the hut log books are full of entries relaying their profound relief at arriving at the cabin.
For backcountry skiers, a hut trip affords run after run of untracked powder skiing that only comes from earning your turns.
For families, it is unparalleled together time without the distractions of TV, internet, and electronic devices. Hut trippers who brought their kids to the huts in the 1990’s are now bringing their kids and grandkids for multi-generational memory-making. Hut trips are part of their lifestyle.
Located 4 miles south of Breckenridge and 2.5 miles from the nearest trailhead, Francie’s Cabin is a great place to start exploring hut trips. Route finding is straightforward with very little avalanche hazard along the way.
And Francie’s is one of the cushiest of the cabins with a sauna and indoor composting toilets, along with solar lights and a fully equipped kitchen (no oven though, forget about baking cookies). It is popular with families and the kids love to play outside making snow forts and tunnels. Francie’s Cabin sleeps twenty people, so plan to share with others, or rent the whole hut and bring a big group.
Section House and Ken’s Cabin
This is where the “half a cabin” comes in. The Section House is a century-old railroad building on the top of Boreas Pass and the Continental Divide, about 10 miles east of Breckenridge. It accommodates 12 people with amenities including a wood-burning cook stove with oven, and history oozing out of its hewn log walls. Nearby is intimate Ken’s Cabin, perfect for a couple looking for privacy. In fact, its nickname is the “Love Shack.” The two huts share the outhouse and route. And neighbors have been known to share cookies or a glass of wine. Ken’s Cabin and the Section House are accessible via Boreas Pass Road, about six miles from the nearest trailhead. Although the distance is considerably longer than the route to Francie’s Cabin, Boreas Pass Road has no steep pitches, and the route is easy to find along the gentle former railroad grade.
Volunteering and Summer Access
Hut trips are not just for winter adventures. Several of SHA’s huts are open in the summer for hikers and mountain bikers, including Francie’s Cabin and Janet’s Cabin near Copper Mountain.
Summit Huts Association is a small organization that relies on volunteers, and volunteer days are available year round. A winter volunteer weekend can be a great way to become acquainted with the huts and the people who love them. And volunteers earn free hut nights. Contact SHA for more information on volunteering.
For hut reservations, visit summithuts.org or call 970-453-8583 for more information.
All photos courtesy Summit Huts Association.
Leigh Girvin is the former Executive Director of Summit Huts Association and a 25+ year non-profit professional in Breckenridge.