10th Mtn 2002

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Potomac Appalachian Trail Club - Ski Tour Section:
10th Mountain Hut to Hut Backcountry Skiing, Colorado

April 6-14, 2002

Colorado 10th Mountain Hut System

Estimated cost:
$1000.00 - the actual cost should be lower
$250.00 initial deposit

Last Update: 2/25/02

Trip Description








Colorado has possibly the most extensive hut system in the world with at least 56 huts in 12 different hut systems in some of the most spectacular and beautiful wilderness terrain in the west.  Of these systems, the 10th Mountain Hut System is the most extensive, and famous. This system was designed and built as a memorial to the US Army's 10th Mountain Division which fought in Italy and other places during World War II. During the war they trained around Camp Hale in Colorado. After the war many of them came back to Colorado and started the American ski industry. They envisioned a system of mountain huts, much like what they had seen in the European Alps, which would allow backcountry wilderness travel in winter. All of these huts are intended primarily for winter use via skis or snowshoes; and many are available exclusively for winter use. Backcountry skiing or snowshoeing is how you do backpacking in winter through deep snow. 

This trip will start on Monday at the Tennessee Pass trail head and go to Vance's Cabin. From there we go to the Jackal Hut and ski out to one of the Camp Hale trail heads on Friday. We will do a layover day at each hut resulting in a total of five days in the huts. The layover days allow extensive touring or telemark skiing around the huts. The first day in will be pretty easy, the layover days allow you to do as little or as much as you want. The day between the huts will be the hardest day - 8.5 miles, 1500' loss plus a 2200' gain, and the day we leave will be  a normal hut ski day. All trails are intermediate with either little (easily avoided) or no avalanche danger. Before and after the hut trip we will have one open day each. Potential activities include: one day avalanche course, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, backcountry skiing into another area just for a day trip, tourist activities, loafing, licking your wounds, etc. 

First preference will be given to backcountry skiers, but snowshoers are also welcome. In the past I have not allowed snowshoers because I felt there would be too much of a speed differential relative to the skiers. Factoring in the time required for navigation, photography, and fiddling with waxable skis, the snowshoers may actually be in front of me. Participants who have the physical stamina to do the trip but have little or no backcountry ski experience may use snowshoes. At a minimum all participants must be able to do a multiday backpack at altitudes of 10,000' to 12,000'. 

The leader reserves the right to exclude any potential participant for insufficient backcountry ski experience (snowshoers excepted), insufficient physical conditioning, improper gear, illegal activities, antisocial behavior, or any other reason that is deemed to significantly impact the safety or general well being of the individual or the rest of the group. Any one of us can have an injury or illness while on the trail and we just have to deal with that as best we can at the time, but as the leader, I can't allow people on the trip who have known problems before they ever hit the trail. I know this sounds hard nosed and I hope that it doesn't turn people off but this isn't a dayhike in SNP. People can pay a high price for being unprepared on backcountry trips in the wilderness, especially in winter. This will be my fifth backcountry hut ski trip, the fourth in the 10th Mountain system, and the third that I have led.

Participant Requirements

Trip participants must be in excellent physical condition. You should be able to ski all day (8 to 10 miles) with a full pack (35 to 55 lbs.) both uphill and downhill. Terrain will include up to 2200' of elevation gain (and/or loss) on some days. The snow could be deep and we could have blizzard conditions. This trip is best suited for experienced, fit backpackers who are intermediate backcountry skiers. Downhill skiing ability is irrelevant. Also if you've only been cross country skiing around the golf course, don't even think about it without using snow shoes - you'll be in way over your head on backcountry skis in steep terrain with a big pack.

At a minimum you must be able to do a snowplow stop and a wedge turn (snowplow turn). Telemark or parallel skiing ability is not required, although that will be an option on the layover days. 

Ski Equipment Requirements

Everyone must use either backcountry, telemark, or alpine touring ski equipment. Light cross country touring gear is not sufficient or appropriate for this type of trip. If you do not have this gear currently, it can be rented at an outfitter in Colorado. You will need: backcountry or telemark skis, heavy weight backcountry boots, heavier poles, and climbing skins. The estimated cost to rent all of this ski gear for the trip is approximately $100.00 per person and is not included in the trip price. Snowshoers will also need ski poles and the snowshoes must have crampons.  Both skis and snowshoes must provide enough flotation to support both you and your pack in deep snow. 

So what are climbing skins? They're not social climbing RedSkin's fans, they're synthetic "skins" that you put on the bottom of your skis when you want to climb a steep hill. They slide in one direction only (theoretically anyway), and make it relatively easy to climb hills. You will do very little, if any, herringbone or sidestep while wearing climbing skins. As we will be doing as much uphill as downhill, the skins are required. Skiing up steep hills with a big pack will be exhausting without them. You do not want Snake Skins, their neoprene material grips well for climbing but there is zero glide. Nylon, Ascension strap on skins work great and they're easy to put on and off.

Trip Itinerary

Day Date Activity
Saturday April 6 Fly to Denver, CO, pick up rental cars, drive to motel
Sunday April 7 Open day, pick up any rental gear, avalanche course?
Monday April 8 Ski from Tennessee Pass into Vance's Cabin
Tuesday April 9 Layover day, ski around the hut
Wednesday April 10 Ski from Vance's Cabin to Jackal Hut
Thursday April 11 Layover day, ski around the hut
Friday April 12 Ski out to a Camp Hale trailhead
Saturday April 13 Open day, go downhill skiing
Sunday April 14 Downhill skiing in the morning?, fly home



These trails are poorly marked by design. They all go through wilderness areas which are not easily accessible. Trails are marked by blue plastic diamonds that are approximately 4"x6" or blazes on trees through the official wilderness areas. Even the guide books say that you cannot depend solely on the trail markers.

This trip requires good map and compass navigation skills. I will be doing extensive pretrip navigation to work out: compass bearings, distances, altitude, latitude, and longitude. These will be supplied to everyone in case we become separated. We will be skiing as a group for the entire trip, with the possible exception of the layover days. I will also have key trip points programmed into my GPS receiver as a backup or for bad weather. If anyone else has a GPS receiver, altimeter, or a ham radio transceiver this is a good trip to bring them on. I always carry my ham radio transceiver on backpacking and backcountry ski trips.



Anticipated weather includes anything from somewhat warm and sunny conditions to very cold, wet, windy blizzard conditions. The weather can be severe, pack clothing accordingly. Because we are skiing hut to hut, we must press on each day.

Equipment you will need

(* Indicates Required Equipment)

As we will be traveling in remote Colorado backcountry in winter; stringent equipment requirements are necessary. Everyone must carry enough gear to do an emergency bivouac. You will need:

Ski Gear
*Ski goggles or sunglasses
*Backcountry, telemark, or alpine touring skis, boots, bindings, poles, and climbing skins
Snowshoes with crampons are an option for people who do not have enough backcountry ski experience.
Lightweight XC touring gear is not appropriate and is not allowed.

Warm, sunny weather
*Sun glasses, sun block, hat or bandanna

Severe weather
*Heavy wool or fleece hat or balaclava
*Ski mask or scarf for your face
*Medium to heavy, wool or fleece, gloves or mittens (2 pair)
Light liner gloves
Mitten shells
*High Gaiters or just use shell pants
*Wool or fleece sweater or jacket (2)
*Synthetic pants
*Long synthetic thermal underwear tops and bottoms(1 or 2 sets)
*Rain suit or some type of shell top and bottom

No cotton clothing in this category, everything must be wool, fleece, or synthetic.

*3/4 or full sized internal frame pack, with a hip belt, should fit you comfortably. Approximately 3500 to 5000 cubic inches. External frame packs will not allow you to swing your arms when we are touring, also the frame will get hung up in the trees. The pack must flex with your body, but not move around on its own, while you are skiing. Load lifter, sternum straps, and hipbelt pulls help stabilize the pack considerably.

Map & Compass
*Everyone must carry topographic maps and a compass readable to 1-2 degrees.

Miscellaneous Gear
*Sleeping bag, rated to 15 to 20 F, will be used in the hut
*Flashlight , extra bulb, extra batteries (headlamps strongly recommended)
personal toilet gear
toilet paper & trowel (only necessary for the trail, supplied at huts)
*first aid kit
*moleskin or molefoam for blisters
*any necessary prescription medication
*glasses if you need them to read maps
*2 quart water bottles
You may want to carry water in an insulated water bottle cover or inside your pack. Bladders with drinking tubes should have insulation on the tubes.

Emergency & Bivouac Gear
*bivouac sack or 3 large, plastic garbage bags
*sleeping bag pad
avalanche shovel (useful for making snow caves)
avalanche probe poles

Optional Equipment
camera, extra film and batteries, tripod
cards or light weight games
light reading
GPS receiver
ham radio transceiver
light weight shoes or slippers to wear in the hut

Equipment you DO NOT need
tent, stove, cooking utensils, eating utensils (except for lunch on the trail), water filter


Bring food for Monday lunch to Friday lunch. We will prepare and eat breakfast and dinner at the huts, and eat a cold lunch on the trail. We will not be carrying stoves but you might want to bring a small stainless steel thermos to carry a hot drink for lunch. Because the first day will probably be fairly short (if we use a shuttle) and the second day is a layover day, you might want to bring fresher, heavier, better quality food for the first two days with lighter food for the remaining three days

Packing Your Pack

Put things that you might need quickly or frequently in outside pockets: maps, compass, water, snacks, rain gear, gloves, sunglasses, sunblock, ski wax, skins, etc. Although if it's very cold put your water inside your pack to keep it from freezing. Keep the weight and volume as low as possible. Try to make items do double duty. Only bring items you are sure that you will use. A heavier pack makes it harder to ski and slows you down. Keeping the weight and volume down is even more important for backcountry skiing than it is for backpacking. Your pack must fit properly and not move around too much or it will throw you off balance while skiing. Pack the heaviest items in the bottom of your pack, and close to your back, to lower your center of gravity.

The Huts

These huts range from rustic to beautiful, remote mountain huts. The only way to get there is on foot or skis. They include single or double bunks and pillow for each person. You only need to bring a sleeping bag. Two wood burning stoves are normally provided, one for cooking and one for melting snow for water. All cooking and eating utensils are provided at the hut. An outdoor (or indoor) privy with toilet paper is also provided. Unlike the AMC huts in the White Mountains, you cannot buy anything at the huts, you must bring it with you. These huts are not "manned" or "womaned", we have to do everything. All cooking and drinking water comes from melted snow, keeping the snowpot cooking will be one of our hut jobs. Always use clean, white snow for drinking water, avoid the top and bottom of the snow pack. Never use yellow, red, or dirty snow.

After arrival at the hut, and before departure, we will have some hut chores that we must do. Everyone is expected to participate. 

Hut Chores

Post our reservation on the bulletin board
Start the wood burning stove for heating & melting water
Fill the snow pot for drinking water
Start the other stove when necessary for cooking
Cook meals, wash dishes, clean hut
Turn on/off the solar powered electricity
Bring in firewood and snow for the next group

Shuttle Van

We may use a shuttle van depending on our route. If we ski further the first day we can do a loop and avoid the shuttle completely - I'm evaluating this option now.

10th Mountain Division Hut Association

1280 Ute Avenue, Suite 21
Aspen, CO 81611

Buy maps and guidebooks from them.


10th Mtn Map: Chicago Ridge, you must buy the WINTER map.


1. Colorado 10th Mountain Huts & Trails, 3rd Edition, Louis W. Dawson, Who Press, Aspen, CO, $19.95.

    This book covers the 10th Mountain system exclusively and is the recommended reference for this trip. It has the best trail head access descriptions and more detail about all of the trails.

2. Colorado Hut to Hut, 2nd Edition, Brian Litz, Westcliffe Publishers, Englewood, CO, $24.95.

    This book covers all 12 hut systems in Colorado, a total of 56 different huts. Beautiful color photography, and good descriptions of each hut and all trailheads. An excellent alternate to the book by Dawson. Includes more avalanche information. A new edition is available which is now split into two separate books.

3. The Hut Handbook, Leigh Yule & Scott Toepfer, Westcliffe Publishers, Englewood, CO, $12.95.

    Also a good book but one mostly covering the "generic hut experience". The two previous guide books each cover this somewhat.

Reference Books

1. Backcountry Skier, Jean Vives, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, $18.95.

This is an excellent book which covers all aspects of backcountry skiing.


The estimated cost is currently $1000.00. The actual trip cost could be higher or lower and may not be known exactly until the trip is over. I will make every attempt to keep the cost at or below this price if possible. It will include: round trip airfare from BWI to Denver, four nights hut reservations, four nights motel reservations, car rental, and a shuttle if one is used. It does not include anything else such as: meals during the entire trip, any ski or other gear rental, avalanche course, any lift tickets, books & maps, and any necessary gear that you don’t currently have.

Make checks payable to Ted Fryberger, not PATC-STS. PATC-STS runs their trips differently than the other two clubs that I lead for. You pay the leader and the leader reimburses the club.

Trip Leader

Ted Fryberger
6259 Deep River Canyon
Columbia, MD 21045
Phone: 443-917-2902

Copyright 2000 - 2023 by Ted Fryberger & DeepSoft, LLC, All Rights Reserved