10th (Tenth) Mountain Division Huts and Summit Huts Online Guidebook
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Hut Skiing Glossary

10th Mountain Division - A division (10,000 men) of the U.S. Army that during WWII specialized in mountain warfare, necessitating the use of various backcountry skills including skiing and mountain climbing. The 10th Mountain Division is famous for several decisive battles in Italy during the war, and has since become a beloved part of Colorado history because they trained for two winters at Camp Hale near the town of Leadville in central Colorado. Many 10th Mountain veterans took up skiing after the war, and hundreds entered the ski industry as everything from instructors to ski resort developers. Thus, their influence on the ski industry is known to be "miraculous," as one historian put it. The 10th Mountain Division huts memorialize the 10th Mountain Division. More information.

Bivouac - With regard to hut skiing, usually means an unplanned night out. Weather or poor navigation can cause a bivouac, and all parties should be prepared for this eventuality. "Prepared" means knowing things like how to start and maintain a fire in snowcountry so you don't end up imitating a famous Jack London story, carrying a bivouac shelter, and bringing a selection of food that's edible without cooking.

Blue Diamond Marker

Blue diamond trail maker
Typical blue diamond, in this case with a corner broken but still obvious, a welcome sight in a storm!

A blue plastic trail marker indicating a cross-country ski route, generally nailed to a tree or post at a height sufficiently above average maximum snow levels. Such markers may also be orange, which indicates a motorized route (such are frequently shared with ski routes).

Plastic trail markers may also placed in the form of small arrows indicating direction. Plastic markers are not allowed in legal Wilderness, so tree blazes are used instead for marking trails.

Corn Snow - Generally found during late winter and spring, corn snow is a large snow crystal formed by partial melting and re-freezing of snow crystals on top of the snowpack. The term generally implies that the snowpack has settled and bonded together in such a way as to have much reduced avalanche danger. When partially thawed after a freeze at night, corn snow is very easy and fun to ski. The key to avalanche safe steeper skiing on Colorado's high peaks is to go during late winter and spring when you'll generally find corn snow, or stable layers of new snow on top of corn snow.

CORSAR Card - If you purchase fishing or hunting licenses, a stand-alone Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp, or register an off-highway vehicle, boat or snowmobile, you automatically contribute a Colorado state fund that reimburses various entities for rescue expenses. Another way to contribute to the fund is by purchasing a CORSAR (Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue) Card. Details about this program can be found here. You can buy a CORSAR card here. Anyone recreating in the Colorado backcountry should contribute to this fund in one way or another, the cost is trivial.

Companion Rescue - This term is usually used in backcountry skiing to talk about avalanche rescue done by party members rather than an outside rescue group. It's an important concept, as a buried avalanche victim only has minutes before they begin to suffocate, and thus companion rescue is the only possible way to save their life. Companion rescue is done with essential equipment: avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe. Effective companion rescue also requires first aid skills, solid judgment and good teamwork.

Declination as shown on HutSki.com maps.

Declination - What's known as "geographic north" on maps generally points straight up and is oriented with longitude lines. A compass points to magnetic north, and the magnetic pole of the earth doesn't line up with the longitude lines. The difference between where the compass points and where the longitude lines go is known as "declination," and is around 10 degrees in central Colorado. Declination is shown on HutSki.com maps by a graphic with two arrows.

Giardia - A microscopic intestinal parasite that causes Giardiasis (GEE-are-DYE-uh-sis), a diarrheal illness. Once an animal or person has been infected with Giardia intestinalis, the parasite lives in the intestine and is passed in the stool. The illness may be slightly debilitating to healthy adults, but serous for infants and elderly. More information.

Kick Turn - A ski turn, usually made while stationary, that involves turning the downhill foot/ski to point in the opposite direction of the other, then bringing the other around to match. This is an essential skill for backcountry skiing, and should be mastered by any skier enjoying the Colorado backcountry skiing huts. An associated technique is called the "snap kick turn" and involves turning the uphill foot/ski first rather than the lower.

Assembling a splitboard.

Splitboard - A snowboard that's split down the middle to make two skis for traveling on the flats and uphill. Climbing skins are usually used, and the board is mated for downhill with an ingenious system of catches.

Side Slipping - A cautious ski descent technique that involves keeping both skis perpendicular to the fall line and sliding sideways downhill, usually done slowly but can be done quickly by experts.

Survival Skiing - Means skiing with an extra measure of control. Usually practiced to descend difficult snow when carefree turns could result in falling and possible injury. The kick turn is essential to survival skiing.

Snowpit - In backcountry skiing, a hole dug in the snow to evaluate avalanche danger.

Ski Crampons - Metal traction devices that attach to skis, for climbing uphill. Usually not necessary for access to Colorado huts, but my be handy for steeper ski alpinism reached from the huts.


Trail breaking in deep winter snow.
Trail breaking can use immense amounts of energy.

Trail Breaking - Has many meanings, in the case of winter ski touring is usually taken to mean the act of forging a new track in fresh snow. Skis or snowshoes offer a modicum of flotation, but not enough to stay on top of most freshly fallen snow. Thus, the first person to "break trail" has to compact a certain amount of snow with each step. Winter trail breaking can take an immense amount of energy. If deep and difficult, such trail breaking can double or triple the average time it takes to travel a given trail. Most standard 10th Mountain routes stay "broken out" most of the time because guests leaving huts are forced to do the trail breaking, and it's easier for them because much of the egress trails are downhill grade. Nonetheless, if a productive winter storm rolls in the night before your trip, or you're doing a less traveled trail, consider extra travel time for trail breaking.

Trailhead - In the case of backcountry skiing, simply the place where you change transportation modes to human power and generally leave a snowplowed road for terrain with a snowpack. Most often, the "trailhead" is where you park an automobile or are dropped off with an automobile. Exceptions include using ski lifts or snowmachines for backcountry access.

This tree blaze is more defined than many you'll see.

Tree Blaze - A trail marker carved or otherwise skived into the bark of a tree. As many of these were made for summer travel, they may be obscured by deep snow. Designated 10th Mountain Hut Association trails in Wilderness may have blazes in position above average winter snow levels.

Tree blazes are generally created in such as way as to be distinguishable from natural markings, generally by being vertically oblong and sometimes having an extra "dot" above or below the larger marking. If in doubt, look for tool marks within the blaze that distinguish it from natural markings.

This book goes great with our maps, highly recommended for any hut skier.
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Please note: The information in this website is based on the experience and research of the site owners and their sources, may not be accurate, and might not be perceived as accurate by other persons. Therefore, extreme care should be taken when following any of the backcountry skiing 10th Mountain Huts, Summit Huts and Braun Huts routes described in this website. This website is not intended to be instructional but rather is a guide for backcountry users who already have the requisite training, experience, and knowledge for the activities they choose. An advanced level of expertise and physical conditioning is necessary for even the "easiest" of the routes and activities described herein. Proper clothing and equipment is essential. Failure to have the necessary knowledge, equipment, and conditioning will subject you to physical danger, injury, or death. Some backcountry skiing routes for 10th Mountain Huts, Summit Huts and Braun Huts have changed and others will change; avalanche hazards may have expanded or new hazards may have formed since this website's publication.

Mission statement: The mission of HutSki.com is to provide backcountry skiers and other Colorado hut users with a complete set of high quality free topo maps, plentiful how-to information, and brief route descriptions that include alternate routes as well as standard trails.