During WWII, hundreds of U.S. soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division trained in the mountains of Colorado to prepare for wintry battles in the Alps. It's hard to imagine how the soldiers developed a love for Colorado while sleeping in the snow after carrying packs of 90lbs through mountain traverses in bleak winter conditions, but they did.
Today we owe the soldiers who returned after the war for helping to develop a little-known and highly coveted system of Colorado mountain huts that make up for some of the best ski touring in North America.
Nearly 30 years after the first hut was erected, thanks to former soldier Fritz Benedict, there are over 30 huts in the 10th Mtn Div Hut Association. They book up almost a year in advance and can sleep 4 to 18 people. If your'e lucky enough to get a reservation, you'll be in for a once in a lifetime experience of mountain sunsets, pristine backcountry terrain, and breathtaking proximity to the grandness of 14,000 foot peaks. Winter or summer, the huts provide access to Colorado's backcountry in a way that you can't get anywhere else.
The huts are heated by wood-burning stoves, which melt snow for water. The kitchens run on propane burners and the guests share responsibilities of maintaining the heat and cleanliness of the hut.
The huts don't allow motorized vehicles, and most are a 7-mile hike from the trailhead, but know you'll be rewarded for your efforts. So hike in, live simply, feel small, and get to know the mountains.