Colorado Backcountry Skiing: Barnard Hut, Aspen
One of lifes greatest pleasures is shacking up in the middle of the back country with your best buds, a case of beer, and unlimited good times.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about backcountry hut trips it’s that if someone invites you, say “yes” immediately and drop everything else because hut trips are awesome (also, pay the person who just dropped $500 - $1,000 to reserve a cabin for you and all your buddies knowing full well that it will be like pulling teeth to get everyone to pay ahem cough Tommy C).
Ditch the crowds for your own private playground
Hut trips may be the most fun way to ski in the backcountry, even if your hut is the size of a minivan. The Barnard Hut, part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut system, was a new one for me, and it’s on my short list to visit again. Rumor has it that Barnard often goes unbooked because of the relentless skin in and the potentially more difficult skin out. I can confirm that both directions with a heavy pack were significantly more difficult than I had expected, but like every hut trip I have ever been on, it was well worth the brief periods of agony.
Backcountry huts are awesome for so many reasons. Think about the Shining; it’s like you’re Danny during his first few days at the Overlook Hotel. The whole cabin and surrounding terrain is your private playground. Sometimes you know everyone joining you, and sometimes you get to make a bunch of new friends who also like spending time in the backcountry.
Situated outside Aspen, the Barnard hut is guarded via a long approach
There are a bunch of activities waiting for you, depending on the length of your stay and the status of your legs after hauling in all that beer (I’d never warn against bringing beer. That said, boxed wine gives you a little more bang for the ounce, so to speak). Up for a day in? Play some cards, do a puzzle from the 90’s, or lose yourself in a progressively complex and intrusive game of “what are the odds.”
Up for playing in the snow? Even better. During a season like this one there is feet of unskied powder in every direction. Our trip to Barnard landed us in the middle of a “considerable” avalanche cycle, so low angle trees were the unanimous call. When you’re able to start the day deep in the backcountry, your options are vast so long as you’re willing to break trail. The low angle trees surrounding Barnard are endlessly entertaining if you can keep your speed up. The snow was blowing, the wind was howling, and our faces were frozen into near-permanent grins.
After assessing conditions, low angled goodness was the answer
Skiing from morning to sundown is pretty wonderful in itself, but returning to a warm hut after a long day in the snow is perhaps the most après thing you can do on this side of the Atlantic. Pour a drink, get that fire roaring, and enjoy a tech-free night with old friends, new friends, and a bottomless pot of pad thai.
The time and freedom afforded by hut trips is a pretty special thing these days. There are countless opportunities available when you’re forced free of your smartphone and Netflix. Dig a few snowpits. Try every stability test you know. Build an igloo. Write in your journal. Read the National Geographic article from 2005 that’s on the shelf. Drink coffee and stare out the window. Rub sticks together until they catch fire. It’s a freedom that I’ve certainly missed, and one that always provides some refreshing clarity.
Hut trips are more than just a weekend getaway. They can be whatever you make them. You can ski powder until your legs give out or lose yourself in reflection. They are an accessible template for any type or scale of backcountry adventure.
Ready to start planning your first or 21st backcountry hut trip? Stop by Cripple Creek for all the hut trip beta you can shake a stick at.
CCBC Team Member Bergen Tjossem can be found on Instagram as @bergentoejam
- Accumula Collaborator