|How Hard is Skiing or Snowshoeing the Colorado Huts?
Now that huts can make snow-camping unnecessary for backcountry skiing, it may take less skill and vigor to enjoy the winter wilds. Even so, you still need a certain level of skill and strength to travel safely on the trails covered by HutSki.com, and you must know your limits.
Weather can turn the easiest routes into dangerous epics. Illness, injury, or navigation problems can force you into an unplanned bivouac in the snow. What's more, alternate and branch routes run the gamut of winter challenge and risk.
The 10th Mountain, Summit and Braun hut system trails travel to and from cozy shelters; but these are full-bore treks, not "day trips." To ski any of these routes you could have to break trail in deep powder and navigate with zero visibility all at altitudes over 8,000 feet. Thus, no route covered here is an easy backcountry trail, no such thing exists! In other words, to safely enjoy any trail or tour covered by this website you should be at least an intermediate level backcountry skier to enjoy these trails without a guide.
And what to do if you're a novice backcountry skier? Simple, travel with more experienced friends or hire a guide.
HutSki.com Route Ratings
Intermediate backcountry skiers can use a strong snowplow for downhill skiing control. They can change direction with a parallel or telemark turn, though they may not be highly skilled in downhill skiing. They have done long tours with at least 2,000 feet of elevation gain, at altitudes over 8,000 feet. Intermediates know how to use a topographic map, compass, and altimeter. They have plenty of first-aid knowledge, and carry and know how to use bivouac gear. Avalanche safety is more theory than experience for an intermediate, as they need field practice to learn hazard recognition.
Advanced backcountry skiers have all the skills of an intermediate, plus several years experience skiing huts and associated terrain. They have better ski skills than an Intermediate, have first-aid training, and are well versed in emergency conduct. Their orienteering skills are impeccable and include expertise in GPS use. They have the fitness to ski for long days with over 3,000 vertical feet elevation gain. They have taken an avalanche safety course and continue to study avalanche safety.
Expert backcountry skiers combine superb avalanche safety knowledge and climbing skills with expert skiing skills. They have at least eight years of solid experience, and have made the craft of wilderness skiing into a valued avocation. Expert skiers are skilled enough to organize a rescue or act as a guide.
Only a few routes covered here are rated Novice, meaning an inexperienced backcountry skier can do them safely provided they are accompanied by at least one person with a reasonable level of expertise.