New Backcountry Hut to be Built in Summit County

Project naysayers say backcountry skiing areas should be left untouched and uncrowded

Backcountry skiers will have somewhere new to shack up in the backwoods of Summit County after the White River National Forest approved a new ski hut for Bald Mountain. The decision came more than four years after the U.S. Forest Service’s formal analysis and review process began.

The (possibly) two-story hut won’t open for business for three or four more years, so the nonprofit group Summit Huts Association is celebrating the win in stride.

Located between Copper Mountain and Vail Pass, Janet's Cabin is one of four pre-existing huts in Summit County. PHOTO: Courtesy of Summit Hut Association
Located between Copper Mountain and Vail Pass, Janet’s Cabin is one of four pre-existing huts in Summit County. PHOTO: Courtesy of Summit Hut Association

The newest hut, located in Weber Gulch, will be between 1,400 to 2,000 square feet to accommodate 14 skiers and cost between $1 million and $2 million. It will likely include an indoor composting toilet, bedrooms that sleep two to six people, solar power and a wood-burning stove. (If this is starting to sound a lot nice than anywhere you’ve ever lived, you’re not alone.)

The Weber Hut will fall in line with the association’s four other huts in the area where backcountry skiers looking to stay over must cross their fingers and hope for the lucky lottery win. The addition of a fifth will help more skiers stay overnight in the backcountry during the winter season—also the main reason the project saw opposition from those who feel backcountry skiing areas should be left pristine and accessed only by those tough enough to hack it sans cushy cabin.

White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams gave the formal go-ahead on June 17. In the decision notice, he wrote:

“The sense of solitude that can accompany cross-country and backcountry skiing is an important part of the overall recreational experience throughout the Analysis Area…No backcountry terrain will be lost as result of my approval and this approval does not increase access to backcountry skiing on Bald Mountain; skiers will still need to get there on their own power. Beyond solitude, I understand that backcountry skiers search out untracked snow. While construction of the proposed Weber Gulch backcountry hut will certainly add to use of some backcountry terrain on Bald Mountain, I believe this is a good use of public lands and is consistent with the WRNF/SHA mission of promoting enjoyment of the natural environment.”

Fitzwilliams went on to say there’s room for everyone to play in the National Forest and the addition of one new trail and one small hut will hardly hinder the backcountry experience for those seeking solitude in Summit County. An environmental assessment analyzed the hut’s impacts on surrounding wilderness and wildlife, which was determined to be minimal.