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Fall/Winter 2002

Nuts About Huts The Colorado College Ski-Hut Trips

by Ric Bradley and Val Veirs

The Colorado College ski-hut trips have been an annual rite of winter for nearly four decades. Beginning in 1963, and almost every year thereafter, a small, congenial band of Colorado College folk, together with family and Colorado Springs and Boulder friends, have parked their cars at a snowy trailhead and skied many miles to a remote high mountain hut to spend a few days frolicking in a winter wilderness wonderland. This story begins in 1963, when Dorry and Ric Bradley joined Los Alamos friends who had learned of two huts a few miles from Ashcroft. The U.S. Ski Association was making them available to cross-country skiers for about fifty cents per person per night. The huts reputedly had stoves, cookware, and bunk spaces. Skiers provided their own food, mess kits, personal effects, and sleeping bags – and they also rustled their own firewood from the surrounding forest. Dorry and Ric needed no arm-twisting to join the group. They had made several hut trips in California during graduate school days and knew exactly how much fun they could be. They signed on at once and soon were the mainstays and energizing force for annual overnight hut trips in the Colorado high country. Where else could they enjoy and display their flowing telemark technique? From this early start until 1990, the CC crew (now affectionately named “ Uncle Ric’s Group”) visited the huts above Ashcroft almost every year. We have always called our favorites - Tagert, Green-Wilson, Lindley, and Markley - the “Fred Braun” huts. Fred had built some of these huts and after the mid-1970’s, he maintained and administered them. We would call Fred a few weeks before a trip and then stop at his cottage in Aspen where we would get the key, a weather report and some cautionary statements. Often we would also get a couple of rolls of toilet paper or some kerosene for the lanterns or some other essential that Fred wanted us to deliver to the hut. Then we were off to Ashcroft where we would stop and visit with Stuart Mace who, with his wife, Isabel, were operating various businesses: sled dogs, cross-country ski trails, and a ski-in restaurant. Stuart was always good for some stories and he would keep our car keys and sell us that tube of blue wax that we had forgotten. That venerable Colorado mountain man and author of “Guide to the ColoradoMountains”, Bob Ormes, was a member of our party on several trips. Bob was a terrible skier but a wonderful companion. Bob’s infectious laugh and non-stop good humor would blunt the edge of cold and fatigue. Bob’s last trip was to Tagert in 1980. This is a tough ski in for anyone, and especially for a person in their 80’s, but Bob chuckled and laughed as he climbed over the blocky remains of an avalanche that had flowed across the trail south of Ashcroft. While we tried to link turns on the high, lovely rolling slopes in Pearl Basin during the day, Bob maintained a steady effort chopping up a spruce tree that had fallen near the hut. Each afternoon, when we skiers returned to the hut, Bob had warmed it with his efforts. We were truly warmed by Bob Ormes on that last of his trips into the high country in winter. Night falls quickly in these high mountains in the winter. The huts above Ashcroft had no solar-powered lighting in those days. We had a couple of kerosene lanterns and a number of candles, and one kept one’s flashlight at the ready to peer into the soup pot to see how dinner was coming. But with the dark and the shadows came the easy intimacy of friends who have come to rely on each other. Experiences over the years deepened our trust and forged bonds that would never break.

Ski equipment has come full circle over these forty years of hutting. At the start, everyone had all-wood touring skis. Trying to save a bit of money, we often started out with three-pin bindings, but some of our frantic recoveries from downhill near-disasters tended to rip the three-pin plates out of our leather boots. After a few years, the more aggressive skiers in the group replaced their three-pin bindings with cable bindings that serve well still today.

Lightweight skinny skis pose a problem in backcountry skiing. They give you wings, to be sure (Indeed Dorry and Ric, with Los Alamos friends, once skied the 25 miles from Crested Butte to Aspen via East Maroon Pass in a single day, something they never could have done with their old heavy all-purpose equipment.), but skinny skis are also hard to maneuver, a drawback on a hut trip where much of the fun lies in trying to make squiggly paths down snowy slopes. Dorry was perhaps the first person in Colorado to solve the problem by putting cross-country bindings on lightweight downhill skis. Now, nearly 30 years later, the ski industry has finally caught up with her, and modern backcountry telemark skis are practically indistinguishable from downhill skis.

Over time, attitudes change as well. In 1976, Governor Dick Lamm and his wife, Dottie, joined our group for a trip to the Lindley Hut. As we ascended the long shelf road we heard the tell-tale sound of snow machines climbing the road behind us. All but the Governor stepped off the path, begrudging letting the mechanized and smelly monsters command the trail. But Dick stayed the course, making the machines bend to his will as they struggled to pass by in the soft snow. Years later, in 1997, descending from a 10th Mountain hut named Jackal, one of our members got going too fast and went off the trail, falling and injuring his shoulder. Just as we got him out of the ditch one of those ‘ infernal’ machines approached, stopped and the doctor onboard attended to our friend and then gave him a ride down to the car. So, we have a curious love/hate relationship with these machines.

Typically on these hut trips, we spend our days exploring the nearby terrain, practicing telemark turns, and, one year, building an igloo and a ski jump. In the evenings we often sing, a warm fire crackling in the background. Somehow skiing and singing just seem to go well together. Norwegian jumpers sing (or used to), Swiss alpinists yodel, and our World War II ski troops were famous for their songs. One song the ski troopers sang and we ski hutters still sing is “Zwa Brettl” (Bavarian for “Two Boards”). In 1938, Ric’s brother David, himself an occasional hutter, wrote an English translation that is still the accepted version. Ignoring that the song might sound chauvinistic today, we believe it will resonate with anyone who, like us, has enjoyed a lifetime of skiing and singing. The words to the final stanza are particularly poignant:

Two Boards

I care not if government taxes
Take everything else that I won;
Two hickory boards and some waxes;
And I’m free in the mountains alone.
If death finally finds me in spring;
Inscribe on my tomb what I sing.

Two boards upon cold powder snow, yo ho!
What else does a man need to know?
Two boards upon cold powder snow, yo ho!
What else does a man need to know?

Ric Bradley came to Colorado College’s Physics Department in 1961 where he was an inspired teacher. He also served, for six years, as Dean of the College. Ric is perhaps unique in that even more people loved him after he was Dean than before. Ric retired from Colorado College in 1987. He has a lifelong history in working to protect and improve our wildlands. His testimony in Washington, along with David Brower’s, was central in stopping the Bureau of Reclamation’s plans to put dams in Dinosaur National Monument and the Grand Canyon. Ric and Dorry have both been long-time supporters and protectors of the Florissant Fossil Beds, and Ric served as the first president of its friends group. Ric and Dorry still live in Colorado Springs.

Val Veirs came to CC’s Physics Department in 1971 because the Chair, Ric, said “ I don’t really know what you might mean by ‘Environmental Physics’ but if you want to come here and try to teach it, come on and give it a try”. From 1975-1978, Val served on the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, eventual ly chairing the group. Over the years, Val has worked within numerous local environmental organizations including the Springs Area Beautiful Association and the Trails and Open Space group which recently succeeded in passing a sales tax for land acquisition in the Colorado Springs region. Val and his wife Leslie spend most of their time on San Juan Island, WA, but each winter they return to Colorado Springs, where Val teaches at Colorado College.

Letter from the director - Forest Fires and Quite Use

It is fitting to address forest fires and travel management because they both affect the future of the huts, although in opposite fashion. Forest fires tend to have a more negative effect, whereas travel management should be, thankfully, much more positive.

This past summer was difficult for many people in our area because of the catastrophic forest fires and the resulting loss of homes, property and life. Our empathy goes to those affected by the fires, and we hope that the passage of time may return some of what was lost. We respect and admire all the courageous and hardworking individuals who helped contain the forest fires, and sincerely and fully appreciate all their efforts. We certainly appreciate everyone’s compliance with fire bans this summer, and hope that next summer will be more accommodating of traditional backcountry recreation. 10th Mountain continues to participate in the public process of the Travel Management Plan for the USFS White River National Forest. We are submitting general and route-specific comments intended to enhance quiet-use areas around the huts. But also we believe that non-motorized and motorized users have much in common and can share some areas and routes and that the overall recreational experience in certain areas will improve through separation of use based on clear, logical boundaries. We think a well-balanced Plan has the potential to improve the hut experience and we hope that the necessary resources will be available to fully implement the Plan. We think it equally important that an effective user-conflict monitoring program be included to allow land managers to continue to make sensible, informed decisions.

Travel management planning is a public process, and as such your informed, aware participation is important. Comments would be most valuable if strong justifications and possible solutions are addressed. Please contact the USFS for more information.

Yours, Ben Dodge

Powder Day Greets Benedict Bike 150 Participants

By Scott Messina

Once again, the 10th Mountain Hut System sponsored another adventurous bike trip from Aspen to Vail … well, almost.

After a brutally long, dry and hot summer, the leaves began to change as our mid-September tour got underway and there was a hint of moisture in the air. Much to our surprise, the fire ban inside the huts was lifted the day before we started. This was good because the forecast called for cool nights, warm days and “something in the weather” moving in.

Our group consisted of three trip facilitators and seven participants, six from Los Alamos and one from Colorado Springs; ages ranged from 38 to 64 years old. After many emails back and forth between the participants, finalizing details and answering questions, we met on a Saturday morning at 10th Mountain’s office for a half-day “shakedown” ride to get to know everyone. The following morning was clear and warm as we headed off to Margy’s Hut. Twenty-plus miles later - and over 5000 feet of elevation gain - we arrived at Margy’s in time to enjoy a cold beverage on the deck and bask in the warmth of a beautiful fall day.

Monday started early and cold as we headed toward Gates Hut, 28 miles away. The ride began with a 4400-foot descent, followed by 3,300 feet of climbing. Day Two was not without some obligatory “endo’s”, but everyone escaped unharmed. Listening to the National Weather Service report on the radio that evening, we were slightly alarmed to hear the forecast for rain and possible snow. It was hard to believe that it might rain, let alone snow, as we slept on the outside deck during an unusually warm and crystal clear night. Besides, rain would not be appreciated on our next day due to the mud and muck around the Gates Hut in Lime Creek (or “Slime” Creek, as the case may be). Unfortunately, the forecast was accurate. At 3 a.m., the winds began to pick up, the sky clouded over and the first sprinkles drove us inside. A few moments later, the skies opened up and a downpour continued until morning.

We woke to new snow on nearby peaks and cloudy, misty skies. Optimistically, we packed all of our warm gear and headed up the Burnt Mountain Road toward Skinner Hut. We had a long day ahead - 24 miles and 5,400 feet of elevation gain. Add an extra 10 pounds of mud to our tires, jammed into our brakes, and stuck in our drive trains and it was tough going for the first three miles. Fortunately, the weather cleared, the road turned to more stable rock and the day began to brighten. We headed up to the North Fork Road toward Cunningham Pass.

The best way to describe the last two miles of Cunningham is by imagining the cobblestone streets of Holland tilted up on a 15% grade. We were all walking! After Cunningham, we had a short downhill to the Hagerman Pass Road, then panted up the final 20 minutes to the top of Hagerman. It was a bit cold, with dark clouds looming to the west, but we had a great tailwind. From the top of the pass, we rode the short downhill to the Skinner Hut, where warm water awaited us on the stove. After a quick rest, a warm drink and a change into dry clothes, we got all the mud off our bikes, lubed our chains and were ready for the next day.

We knew there was a chance of snow that night; reports on the local radio stations were calling for 2 - 4 inches. When I woke to make a bathroom run around 1 a.m., there were four inches of new snow outside – and still snowing HARD! The remainder of the night was a bit sleepless, so I was up early. At first light, I looked outside and laughed out loud, waking the folks sleeping by the fireplace. “If I only had my skis to enjoy the 14-plus inches of new snow!” I lamented.

Well, this was going to be an interesting day. Riding from the Skinner to the 10th Mountain Hut was supposed to be one of the easier days on our adventure, but with 14” inches of snow?! We knew that lower down, by Turquoise Lake, we would find much less snow, but going back up to the 10th would be a challenge.

At breakfast things slowed down and our usual pace was forgotten. It was time for re-thinking our next few days. After checking out hut availability with the office, trying to get more information from the local radio station (only to hear that Vail Pass was closed due to heavy snow), and putting chains on the support vehicle, the group gathered and everyone shared ideas.

“Stay and sit out the storm?”

“No, lets not waste a day sitting when we can move on. How about we try for the 10th hut?”

“What about another hut?”

“Leadville for the night, and let the storm pass?”

“How about day rides in Aspen?”

“No, wait … Moab? Fruita?…”

Yes, that was it. We decided to pack up the gear, head to the warmth of the desert and ride in shorts again. However, we still had to finish our adventure and get to Leadville. We put on our warmest clothes and made first tracks through 14 inches of snow. We rode through dense fog brightened by spectacular yellow and orange aspen groves. Soon we were immersed in the warmth of Leadville’s famous breakfast spot - the Golden Burro. Riders got a hot breakfast while the support crew shuttled cars from Vail. We made our way to Fruita for two more days of riding – without snow.

As with all adventures, it is great to have participants who are willing to endure and be flexible. Thanks to Arvid, Hillard, Jim, Rodney, Larry, Kent and Kevin, and especially thanks to my assistants, James and Debbie.

Don’t forget, next year’s “Benedict Bike 150” is scheduled for September 13-19th, 2003. Bring skis!

Avalanche Information Resources

by Kestrel Hanson

It is important to consider Colorado’s avalanche-prone snowpack when planning a hut trip in order to make wise and informed decisions about travel to and around the huts. These decisions are crucial to a safe and successful trip. The purpose of this article is to help you find appropriate resources to make the best decisions.

A single snowflake does not cause an avalanche. Avalanches are the result of what happens over time. We recommend that you start checking the avalanche advisory reports (see phone numbers below) regularly before your trip to see how conditions are evolving. You may also want to visit the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) website (www.geosurvey.state.co.us/avalanche) or directly link from our site at www.huts.org for up-to-date avalanche information for all of Colorado.

In addition, group leaders and participants should take avalanche courses, which are offered by 10th Mountain, CAIC, and many others. Please visit www.huts.org/education or contact your local educational institution for more information. Also available at www.huts.org, under avalanche info, are listed locations where avalanche debris has been found across suggested routes to 10th Mountain Huts, Braun Huts, and the Friends’ Hut.

Snow appears to be coming quickly to the mountains and we wish all of you a great season.

Avalanche Advisory Report Numbers

Aspen 970.920.1664 Vail/Minturn 970.827.5687 Summit County 970.668.0600 Statewide 303.275.5360

News Digest

Solar Manuals at the Huts
Have you ever wanted to learn more about the solar systems at the huts, or renewable energy (RE) in general? Thanks to a grant from the Aspen Skiing Company Environment Foundation, 10th Mountain has partnered with solar education organization, Earthsense, to author interpretive manuals about the hut solar electric systems and other RE applications. Next time you are relaxing after a long ski to a hut, enjoying the convenience of solar-powered lights, take a few moments to read through the Solar Electric System Interpretive Manual. You’ll find it in each hut’s interpretive library.

Request for E-mail Information
10th Mountain is in the process of moving into the 21st century by switching to an e-mail-compatible reservations system. The new system should be operational by 2003, but in the mean time we are trying to add e-mail contacts to our database. If you would like your e-mail address added to our database, please e-mail us at : huts@huts.org And just so you know, 10th Mountain will continue to keep your contact info private.

Five-Year Search & Rescue Card Available
10th Mountain is now selling five-year Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) cards. The cards cost $12 and are available over the phone when you make a reservation. One-year cards are still available for $3. For more information, go to the New & News section of huts.org.

ACES at Warren Lakes
On Tuesday, August 20, 2002 the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies took a group to the Benedict Huts for a presentation on the Warren Lakes reclamation project. For the past three summers ACES has played a lead role in the restoration of peat bog habitat at Warren Lakes, adjacent to the Fritz and Fabi Benedict Huts. This project partnered ACES with the U.S. Forest Service and incorporated field study work with several ACES Naturalist Field School courses, as well as community-based volunteer efforts.

A big thanks to our 2002 Summer Volunteers- Smoky Anderson Cathy & Jim Beck Nathan Beckel Jeff & Laurie Beckel Bob & Bev Beehler Jeff Boyer Keaton & Phil Bracy Shane Casteel Lynn & James Chapin Laura Chiappetta Paula Clark Robert Cook Kevin, Rick, Chelsea,& Lori Creekmore William Cruise Philippe & Cynthia Dunoyer Barbara Evert Jim & Susan Farrell Chris Ann Flohr Matt Formisano Lauren & Phil Goyen Roxanne Harper Bruce Harrington Brad Henry Tina Herron Daniel & Dominique Hershberger Ingrid Herte David Hurst William Hutton Jeff Jantos Jane& Tom Krusko Johnson Mark Karlok Gregory Kemp Monika Klatt Terry A.Lamie Fletcher MacNeill Craig McAllister Jane Klingensmith Ken Metzger John Mitchell Carol Montgomery Cynthia Neely Ed & Scott Ogle Charles R.Oleson Paul Petro Matt Plumer Shelia Powell Charles Price Patrick,Kathryn & Carol Quillin Theo Raun Julie Rieke Marilyn & Jerry Robinson Marge & Peter Ruether Stephen & Jane Saul Marilyn Self Robert A. Shelton Paige Sholar Bea Slingsby Gregory Smith Cynthia & Meghan Smith Jerry, Julie, Greg & Clare Sobetski Rudy & Laura Lee Stanovich Daniel Tandberg LeRoy Taylor Lisa Teesch-Maguire Thomas, Maria, & Kristin Teesch-Maguire Jim & Marshall Thompson Courtney Weyhenmeyer Jon Wilzbacher

A new look for the Braun Huts

by Hawk Greenway, Braun Hut Manager

It takes many different people to make this hut game work. Volunteers, staff, dedicated backcountry skiers and donors all shape their respective roles and help make our systems function. Often unsung, the role that hut board members play can be easily overlooked. Not only do they tend to keep backcountry hut programs focused, simple and out of trouble, they often come through with that extra bit of dedication that really makes the difference.

Al Beyer is one such board member. A licensed and practicing architect, Al is a dedicated hut user, which truly shows up in his architectural designs. He simply knows how people use the hut spaces and can fashion structures that really work well. You can sample his design sense at the Tenth’s Fritz and Fabi Benedict Huts, where in 1997 he worked within strict Pitkin County guidelines to create the pair of small and remarkable huts. You know you have enjoyed one of Al’s hut designs when even the outhouse has a certain sense of class (and view!).

Since Al joined the Board of Directors of the Braun Hut System in 1998, he has been the guiding light for the entire string of Braun Hut remodels. Working within the existing footprints, and staying true to the very small (8 to 10 person) Braun hut concept, Al has designed each hut into a unique, sweet space. Starting in 1999, with the Tagert and Green-Wilson Huts near Pearl Pass, the remodels have received rave reviews. The Barnard Hut on Richmond Ridge followed in 2000 and the Goodwin-Greene at Gold Hill was completed in 2001. This year, Al has been the driving force behind the Lindley Hut remodel. As the largest hut (14 people) in the Braun System, the Lindley promises to become a favorite. So, if you are wondering what has happened in the backcountry hut game that has made such a visible and lasting difference, it has been one dedicated architect exercising his passion for huts that really work. I like to think that Fred Braun is looking back at the changes in these huts with great approval and appreciation. Thank you, Al.

Backcountry Skiers Alliance

by Kim Hedberg, Executive Director

The Backcountry Skiers Alliance (BSA) continues to work to establish quiet places to ski, snowshoe, and snowboard on public lands in the Southern Rocky Mountains. This year, we are focusing on the White River National Forest Travel Management Plan (TMP), Wolf Creek Pass, and Steamboat Springs.

The Forest Service has been taking comments on the TMP through October 31, 2002 and the BSA has outlined how to comment on this important document on our website (www.backcountryalliance.org). At Wolf Creek Pass, a group of winter users and agency personnel (Forest Service, Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Parks) has been meeting for the last year to determine the best use of winter recreation on Wolf Creek Pass. This coming season, we will be posting signs and collecting data to determine who uses the area in an effort to determine how best to manage the area. In Steamboat, the BSA is still working with the Winter Task Force on getting areas designated as non-motorized, but due to lack of progress, other avenues are being investigated. Areas being discussed for non-motorized designation include Rabbit Ears Pass, Buffalo Pass, the Toutes (area just outside the ski area boundary), and the North Routt.

The BSA appealed the White River National Forest Plan late this summer. We felt that the plan did not follow regulations governing forest plans due to a lack of monitoring and inadequate disclosure of winter recreation conflicts and explanation of how conflicts between users will be addressed. Specifically, there are no motor vehicle closures for areas of the Forest as required by regulation to resolve winter recreation conflicts. In addition, the management prescriptions in the Vail Pass Area do not include boundaries currently in place. We had anticipated that the plan would ensure that the work done by the Vail Pass Task Force was reflected in the plan, but it was not. Finally, we are concerned that ski area expansions allowed in the plan adversely affect quality backcountry terrain. We hope to negotiate some changes with the Forest Service.

The BSA, along with our Steamboat Chapter - the Friends of the Routt Backcountry - have also appealed the Blue Sky West Permit in the Buffalo Pass area outside of Steamboat Springs. This permit allows the snowcat operators (Blue Sky West) to build a road next to the small area reserved for non-motorized recreation. Even the snowmobilers recognized that this would cause snowmobiles to enter this non-motorized area, which they did last year. We hope the Forest Service will take our appeal seriously so that some areas of solitude can be retained in the area.

Our 10th Annual Fundraiser will be held Friday, November 22, at the American Mountaineering Center. Brian Litz, writer, photographer and author of Colorado Hut to Hut, will present a spectacular slide show, and we will have Live and Silent Auctions featuring winter gear, hut nights, and ski passes generously donated by Colorado mountain shops, hut organizations, and the outdoor retailer industry. Please support us!

Finally, don’t miss our Happy Hour at 2 p.m. on December 6th at Mountain Sports in Boulder. We’ll have food, beer and a showing of the telemark movie " Unparalleled II." For only $10.00 you will receive a complimentary ticket to our raffle drawing held that night and a chance to buy more raffle tickets for great prizes, including a guided hut trip for four, an avalanche rescue beacon and more.

If you are interested in volunteering time or finding out more about what’s happening at BSA, please check our website (www.backcountryalliance.org) or give us a call (303.494.5266). If you’re not already a member, please consider joining. We are almost completely supported by membership and if we do not have adequate funding, we will be unable to work on issues that are important to you! Increased membership strengthens our voice. Thanks for your support!

10th Mountain Division and Summit Huts Associations, Alfred A. Braun Hut System, and Friends Hut operate under special use permits from the US Forest Service, and are equal opportunity service providers.