Winter isn’t all about trainer time. I got the opportunity to join a bigger group on a hut trip this weekend to the Ben Eiseman Hut. It’s a 10th Mountain Division hut, which means it was carefully looked after, amazingly well situated, and outfitted with everything needed for a low maintenance and last minute trip into the mountains. The hut sits at roughly 11,300 feet on a ridge in the shadow of the Gore Range, making it the highest hut in the Colorado network. The Gore run north to south, and the hut is on the snowier western edge, just seven miles from Vail. The skin to the hut had been touted as especially difficult, as it crossed multiple creek drainages, rather than being a straight uphill slog. We set off early, wanting to set our own pace rather than stick with a bigger group.
After crossing from Spraddle Creek to Middle Creek, it was uphill all the way, and we got to the hut in a little under three hours. Plenty of time to head out for some skiing in the afternoon. The hut is known for having some of the best ski terrain in Colorado. The ridgeline than runs above the hut opens up some gladed north west facing aspects that are much more stable than the Front Range terrain I normally ski on. As such, it was a great feeling to be able to ski steeper terrain than I ever have in the backcountry.
With a full day to play on skis, we didn’t hang around, and ended up with a good six hours of skiing. A part of me was playing the anxious bike-racer, and worrying that I wasn’t doing enough exercise, but after coming back to the hut completely exhausted, I allayed my fears and relaxed in tired satisfaction.