“It’s like a backpacking trip on skis,” I explained to my friend Joel last week when talking about my weekend plans for a hut trip. I was first introduced to the concept of hut trips by my cousin Jen who was nice enough to invite me on my first hut trip last year, where I learned, the hard way, that rental AT ski boots are never a good idea. Jen also introduced me to my first double black diamond slopes on the fourth day ever of my skiing career on the East Wall at Arapahoe Basin. She’s a good influence!
Needless to say, I was excited for hut trip round two this year, a little older, wiser and finally armed with my own AT set-up. The 10th Mountain Division Huts are divvied up by a lottery a year in advance for members, and for the past two years Jen has had amazing luck and booked her first and second choices for a prime weekend, President’s Day Weekend. This year we really lucked out with the Eiseman Hut all to ourselves, which is arguably home to some of the best skiing in the entire hut system.
Graham could not make it due to a family event, but my friends Heidi and Chris were able to join the group. Next best thing, right? Based on my skinning experiences from my one previous hut trip, I knew it would probably take us forever to travel the 6.75 miles up the trail to the hut, so we left Denver at 5:30 a.m. to get to the trailhead outside of Vail early.
The hike in was exciting, mainly because perhaps I had packed too much food and wine, though I digress that such thing exists. I kept falling forward on some of the steeper hills, and let’s blame the 60 pound backpack for that. I don’t know if it was really 60 pounds but this is my blog so hey artistic license!
The trail description stated that the last two miles of the trail were steep switchbacks. When Heidi’s Garmin beeped 5 miles and we were on a small, rolling hill I was all “Cool, this isn’t steep at all!” Two seconds later we rounded a corner and there was Mount Everest. My backpack and I toppled forward, ejected out of my skis and had a grand old time getting back into my gear in the middle of the steep hill. Shortly after, Chris abandoned Heidi and me, which was probably good because we were a little whiny at that point. Eventually, we saw Chris through the trees ahead, and he had nicely come to tell us that we were almost at the hut. Huzzah!
We weren’t the very first people to get to the cabin, but we were definitely not the last. This is really the way to do it folks. The chores are all done and you still get your pick of bunks! I was super impressed with how big the hut was too. It was all one level with an open dining room/living room/kitchen in one room and a large bunkroom with two private rooms on the other side. It was incredibly roomy, even with a hut full of 16 people. We feasted on burritos for dinner and went to bed fairly early.
The next day Heidi, Chris, Jen and I were on breakfast duty. I was still pretty wiped from the skin up to the hut from the previous day (and also we were waiting on snow to melt so we could do dishes – #hutproblems) and so Heidi and I stuck around the cabin all morning while everyone else went touring. It was kind of amazing. We did dishes, sat by the fire, read and just relaxed. Eventually Chris and and another hut tripper came back in from doing a lap down the slope in front of the hut, so Heidi and I rallied and played Cards Against Humanity with some “adult” hot chocolate for a few hours.
After lunch, the Cards Against Humanity crew headed out with Jen for a mini-ski tour. We skinned up a hill for about 15 minutes behind the hut and then dropped in on some low aspect trees. Avalanche danger was very high over the weekend, so we definitely played it safe. The snow was heavy and I’m still getting used to the lightness of my AT set-up, but it was a lot of fun to be skiing in the backcountry. By the time we reached the bottom of the hill and skinned back up to the hut, it had almost been a couple of hours. It started to snow and I was more than happy to call it a day!
Back at the hut we again played games, and Heidi absolutely dominated at Uno. If you thought Uno was all luck, you’ve never played with Heidi. My goodness. Mushroom risotto with cheese was dinner, and after dinner we all started to nod off and head to bed.
The next morning blue skies finally greeted us. I was one of the last people to wake up, lured only by the smell of breakfast burritos, and when I walked out into the hut and saw the view all I could say was “Wow.”
We packed up fairly quickly, and again, Heidi, Chris and I were the first to head out. I was nervous about skiing out since the way down from the hut was steeper, gladed trees and I was unsure how it would go with a backpack. Luckily, my backpack was much lighter on the way down and a fresh layer of snow made the ski down a total blast. We had to put skins on for about 2 or 3 miles back, which was sort of a pain. Skinning with Heidi and Chris who are splitboarders has made it so I will never complain about AT skis ever. Splitboarders have it way harder guys. All we have to do is take our skins on and off, not assemble and dissemble our gear in addition to the skins!
We were slightly fearful that we were going to hit traffic, but alas the journey back to Denver was a breeze. Another great weekend in the mountains on skis, what more could a girl ask for!