Hut trippin'

Everyone in the group was delayed by this Colorado traffic jam....
Following along the lines of trying new things in 2016 came our first ski-in hut trip. Sure, we'd done a trial run a while back with snowshoes - but that was very mellow and not really a true back country experience. This time we had a group and we were trecking into Vance's Cabin outside Ski Cooper. It seemed a fairly straight forward route - east from the parking lot, cross the drainage, through the woods then climbing to a saddle, where we would traverse to an open field for a quick descent into the hut. A short 2.5 mile track that promised to be well packed in and easy to follow. Seemed was the optimal word. Shortly after crossing the drainage, we stopped to regroup and shed some layers. Skinning is hard work and getting sweaty not a good idea. There was a group of skiers descending through the deep snow directly above us, but we didn't put it together. The trail appeared to continue heading through the open meadow to the east. So that's the way we headed.

Nick and Todd - our fearless leaders, framed by the snow covered trees
There was a packed in trail in that direction - covered in a few inches of snow, but still a packed in trail. It seemed pretty clear that we on the right track. As we got into the trees, the packed in trail started fading. Not by much, but every few yards the trail got softer and softer. And the terrain got steeper and steeper. We started traversing through the trees, getting further away from the depth of the gully. Then we popped out into a open, snow filled meadow. The packed trail vanished as the tracks we'd been following turned downhill. Not to worry! Our skies floated over the deep power, allowing us to continue our forward and upward momentum. Except for Amber... Her snow shoes were no match for the depths of the snow without the packed trail and she sank to her hips with nearly every step. It took some work and Nick carrying her pack for a while, but we were finally able to get back onto firmer snow where she was able to stay mostly above the surface.

Happy trails for Amber on the firmish trail atop Taylor Hill
A fun little descent and we found ourselves back on the main trail leading to the cabin. Easy skinning again and no breaking through the surface. It didn't take that long to make it to the cabin once we got onto the trail. It was only four miles, but we were all pretty tired and happy to claim bunk space in the expansive basement of the cabin. The other group staying that night had arrived just before us and were already relaxing in the kitchen area. A few of us did another lap or two skinning and skiing, and then it was time for supper. Trying to get 15 people fed and watered on one stove top was an exercise in burner management!. Nick and I joined the other group in a card game before bed time and then everyone crashed. Altitude, adult drinks and exertion took its toll. I got up once to tend the fire, and then slept through the night. A thin mattress and sleeping bag can be quite comfortable when tired!

View from the balcony of Vance's Cabin.
Nick, Nate and Shad on the skin out from the cabin
A decently early start to the trek out had us at the base of Ski Cooper just before lunch. Nick and I opted to stay and resort ski in the fresh - and deep - powder piling up.

Overall, our first skiing hut trip was a success. There are a few things to modify and change to make it a little easier. Our food worked well, but not having a bottle to drink from while in the cabin was a pain. I had two pairs of warm gloves - and was wearing liner gloves most of the trip. Clothing seemed to be spot on for that temperature and effort level with both the climb and descent. We might not get another hut trip in this year, but we will for sure make an effort to do a few next year!



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