10th (Tenth) Mountain Division Huts and Summit Huts Online Guidebook
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Route Finding and Navigation for Backcountry Skiing

Trail Markers
This tree blaze trail marker is more defined than most. Some are fairly small and difficult to spot.

While many fine routes lead to, from, and around the 10th Mountain lodging, only certain trails are designated by the Forest Service as 10th Mountain suggested routes.

Official "suggested routes" (approved by USFS) are marked with 5-inch by 7-inch high blue plastic diamonds nailed to trees, or with blazes hacked into tree bark (the latter when laws preclude hanging plastic in designated wilderness).

Some direction changes are indicated by blue plastic arrows.

HutSki.com covers the marked routes, as well as unmarked alternate and branch routes.

Trail markers are not a follow-the-dots system. They are difficult to place above timberline and in clearings, and are used sparingly because a so-called "backcountry" ski trail could easily be civilized by too many markers.


 
Which way now!? Once in a while you'll find 10th Mountain Trail markers such as this that indicate where the trail goes at a fork. Most often you'll see single blue diamonds without the arrows.

Thus YOU CANNOT EXPECT TO ALWAYS SEE FROM ONE MARKER TO THE NEXT.

Nevertheless, every year skiers try to "follow the dots" and get lost. The experienced backcountry skiers here at HutSki.com agree that the best attitude for effective navigation is to ignore markers and navigate from your maps, possibly enhanced by GPS use. Our free HutSki.com topo maps are designed for just that, so use 'em!

Beyond map work, look for markers to verify your route. You should be saying, "Ah, another marker, we must have read our map right," rather than, "Hey, I can't find a diamond, did you bring a map?"

The same attitude is appropriate for GPS use. Work your map, verify with GPS, then look for markers.

Know the general method behind the placement of 10th Mountain trail makers. The start of each trail is marked, as are most points of confusion such as switchbacks, forks, and clearings. In the latter case a marker will lead you into the clearing. To navigate the clearing, keep the same heading you had when you entered the clearing. A good rule of thumb is that most trails follow the path of least resistance, which in turn is often the obvious route.

Once in a while you'll see a Forest Service trail sign. Some are a bit less vague than this, but all should be cross checked with your map.

Indeed, many groups who lose the blue diamond trail just keep with their map reading and follow obvious lines and soon see another blue diamond or arrive at the door of the hut. Here at HutSki.com we'll even admit we've resorted to that technique many times, especially during record snow winters when some trail markers end up below your feet buried in the snowpack!

Finally, HutSki.com encourages you to remember that blue diamonds and tree blazes are not the only signs of a trail; trimmed trees, sawed log ends, ski tracks, and the actual trail-cut path through timber are all signs you should look for.

Maps

It is important to carry a good map. Mark it at home with hut locations, GPS coordinates, and points of interest along the trail where you can figure out your location. We feel our free topo maps here at HutSki.com are the best available, and 10th Mountain Hut Association sells useful maps as well. For more information about our maps please see other pages under our "Information" menu. Our HutSki.com map index is here.

After examining the maps and guidebooks, you might still think navigating the Colorado huts is child's play. It can indeed be easy if the weather is good and the trail markers intact. But it can all go south (literally or figuratively) in a hurry. For proof, check this out.






 

 
 
 
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 due to human error or source errors, 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.