10th Mountain Division Hut

OutAndBack • 9 mi • 0 ft

This area is the home of the illustrious 10th Mountain Division Hut System. The area surrounding the town of Leadville is historically important in the genesis of the sport of backcountry skiing in America. In 1942 the U.S. Army established Camp Hale just north of Leadville to house the 10th Mountain Division, an elite ski corps of commandos who trained for mountain combat against the Nazis in the European Alps. Also stationed there was the 99th Infantry Division. Made up of Norwegians and Norwegian expatriates, it was the only American division that included foreign citizens and was formed to aid the planned invasion of Norway. For three winters, from 1942 to 1945, over 15,000 troops were stationed at Camp Hale. Unlike today’s lightweight skis and gear, these commandos had to wear 7-foot skis and 90-pound packs. Camouflaged in winter-white suits, these “phantoms of the snow” practiced military exercises around what is now Ski Cooper and along the Gore and Sawatch Ranges under conditions of military secrecy that would rival today’s top secret training bases! After the war, many of these soldiers came back to the Rocky Mountains where they had trained. Continuing to ski, they became instrumental in popularizing cross-country skiing as a sport and were often the major forces behind the development of many of the Colorado ski resorts. In 1982 the first 10th Mountain Division Hut was erected. Today there are twelve huts, and the system is renowned as the most extensive and well laid-out of any in Colorado. The overall favorite among strong backcountry skiers and snowshoers in the Leadville area is the trail to the 10th Mountain Division Hut—a hut and trail that offer magnificent vistas of the 13,209-foot Homestake Peak to the west. Surrounding the hut are also great areas with deep powder ideal for practicing telemark turns, snowshoe treks, and even some open bowl snowboarding. As with all the huts, the usual course of action is to spend the night there. The 10th Mountain Division Hut offers accommodations for up to sixteen overnight skiers or snowshoers along with the standard cookstove, ice shovels, firewood, etc. Surface quality: Ungroomed but sometimes tracked by skiers and snowshoers.
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Activity Type: Cross-Country Skiing
Nearby City: Leadville
Length: 9 total miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Intermediate
Duration: 5 to 7 hours
Trailhead Elevation: 10,137 feet
Top Elevation: 11,370 feet
Other Uses: Snowboarders; low snowmobile use in area
Local Contacts: San Isabel National Forest
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Recent Trail Reviews

4/24/2009

Late spring snow on this trail was soft in places. Snowshoes or skis were necessary. We dropped our packs off about 1 mile up the road from the Parking area (near the gravel pit, on F.R. 131), then drove back to park & walked 1 mile w/o a pack. There is a new mile of trail that parallels the road in this section, for people who would rather ski than walk or drive up the road. The blue diamond markers nailed to trees were the key to finding this new 1-mile section, as well as the rest of the trail. The blue-diamond route is not marked on the most recent USGS maps - I believe it is on the official 10th Mtn. Hut Assoc. Map, though. Also, there is a summer route (has steeper sections & goes downhill on the way TO the hut for a short section) and a winter route (less steep - follows blue diamonds). Just pay attention, especially on the way back to the parking area. GPS is also helpful. Great views of the valley on the upper parts of the trail. The hut was great, with options for day trips from there to Homestake Peak summit, or to Slide Lake (frozen & invisible when we went). No need for avalanche gear between the car and the hut, but if you choose to summit Homestake Peak or any nearby Divide ridges, you should definitely bring it. Weather was very warm on the way in - mid-50s F - and cool on the way out - around 35F, with a good breeze & light snow. Night temps were just below freezing. Hike in took around 2.5 hours (not including the time for the first pack-free mile), hike out took around 2 hours but we went really slow going down. Main water source on the trail was melting snow, there were maybe 1 or 2 streams that had thawed, but the snow didn't look stable enough to hold you up near the water. Have fun & watch for the porcupine.

2/17/2009

Beautiful ski in -- stay off the road and use the trail. Great skiing from the hut! A fun ski out. No way not to enjoy this one.

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