That Colorado’s backcountry huts usually fill up months in advance is a good thing. It’s an indication that there are still some folks among us who find value in strapping on a backpack and sleeping on a foam mattress for the rewards of nature’s solitude and the possibility of some fresh powder turns. It’s a good sign, that  is, until you find yourself yearning for a mountain view money can’t buy— the moonlight glowing on a vast sea of snow far from any road—and you are one of the ones without a reservation. Worry not: With a little sleuthing and flexibility, you can still get in. Here’s how.

200603_peterestin320_fix1

For starters, reservations for the bulk of the state’s huts are made through the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association’s web-site, www.huts.org. Click on “hut availability” and you can scroll through calendars that show when and where space is available. If something jives with your plans, call the 10th Mountain office in Aspen to reserve. You don’t  member of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association to make a reservation, but members do get first dibs through a lottery in the spring. That’s why many huts are already full when reservations are posted online in June.

Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re  looking later in the season:

 

Keep your party small. Part of the fun of a hut trip is renting out the whole thing and filling it with 15 of your closest friends. But if that’s what you’re after now, you probably won’t find it. Mid-season, however, you and a friend will probably be able to squeeze into a hut that isn’t full. A party might reserve 12 of 16 spaces, and the remaining four spaces get overlooked by other large groups planning ahead. Sometimes these slots stay open for the season—just the fix for a small group planning on short notice.

Go midweek. Just as it’s less crowded at ski resorts midweek, you can almost always find a last-minute space if your schedule allows you to ski in and out on weekdays.

 

Buy someone’s spot. When reserving space far in advance, people inevitably encounter schedule conflicts when trip time rolls around. The 10th Mountain doesn’t give refunds, but they do facilitate off-loading with a “Hut Space – Buy or Sell” user forum on the site. It’s definitely worth checking out: Someone’s canceled plans just might coincide with ones you want to make.

Look outside the 10th Mountain Division Hut system. The 10th Mountain Huts are the most deluxe and the closest to Denver, but there are other options beyond these obvious and quickto-fill choices. Huts.org takes reservations for the Alfred Braun huts outside Aspen. The Colorado State Forest, in the mountains west of Fort Collins, hosts some yurts (www.neversummernordic.com). There are also the San Juan Huts that surround Telluride and Ouray (www.sanjuanhuts.com). And there are plenty of privately owned huts and yurts, such as ones found outside of Salida, Wolf Creek, Central City and Lake City. Check Brian Litz’s guide, Colorado Hut to Hut (Westcliffe, 2000), for details and contact information.