Hut spot: Construction begins in May on first new hut approved on Summit County public land in 22 years
The Summit Huts Association will begin construction in May on the first new hut approved on public land in Summit County in 22 years.
After more than a decade of planning, SHA announced on Wednesday that this new winter-only hut, “The Sisters Cabin” is anticipated to open early next winter.
The 2,090-square-foot Sisters Cabin will be the fifth backcountry hut in the Summit Huts system and will be located in Weber Gulch on the northern flank of Bald Mountain (aka Baldy), at an elevation of 11,445 feet.
Per its winter-only designation, The Sisters Cabin will only be open to guests from the third week of November through the end of April each year.
The Sisters Cabin will accommodate 14 guests with beds for two more people in the hutmaster quarters. The hut will be heated by a wood stove in the main living area and passive solar energy via large south-facing and west-facing windows, with electricity drawn from a solar array outside the hut.
Two bathrooms within the hut will feed a composting toilet below, similar to those at Janet’s and Francie’s cabins, while an adjacent sauna and woodshed will be connected to the hut by a covered walkway.
SHA also worked with the town of Breckenridge and Summit County governments to plan a new, 17-space parking lot that will be constructed near the Sallie Barber Trailhead on French Gulch Road this autumn.
SHA added that reservations for The Sisters Cabin will be taken once construction is underway and a specific opening date is more certain.
The construction of the hut is permitted under a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service and SHA claims the cabin’s design will be state-of-the-art and utilize green-building techniques to minimize its environmental impact. The hut will be constructed using structural insulated panels as well as a Douglas fir timber frame. All materials will be flown in by helicopter due to the remote site.
SHA also says the hut experience will be similar to those at SHA’s flagship huts such as Janet’s Cabin and Francie’s Cabin.
“What we’re trying to do is make a hut that has all the traditional appeal and comfort and coziness of Francie’s and Janet’s,” Breckenridge architect Robbie Dickson said, “but with cutting-edge technology.”
Dickinson, a former Summit Huts president and principal of Equinox Architecture LLC, designed the hut pro-bono and received early conceptual help from Andy Stabile and Tim Sabo. Turner Mountain Construction, which is owned by longtime SHA volunteers Jill and Merle Turner, was selected to serve as the general contractor for the hut’s construction.
Financing for the cabin construction was boosted by a $1 million donation from Don and Sue Sturm, owners of ANB Bank, and their Sturm Family Foundation. SHA says the name of The Sisters Cabin celebrates the close bonds that backcountry skiing and adventure have played amongst Sue, her friends and family.
“We took great care to ensure we are building it in the right location and under the right conditions,” SHA president Rich Rowley said. “I can’t wait for people to experience it in person.”
This spring’s groundbreaking on The Sisters Cabin comes 13 years after SHA’s staff and board revisited its original 1987 master plan to explore the feasibility of adding a new hut to the system.
The U.S. Forest Service approved the concept for the cabin in 2015 and in the two years since, the SHA has finalized the details and secured the funds to build the hut.
SHA’s 1987 master plan envisioned five to seven backcountry huts throughout the county, and between 1987 and 1998 SHA built or restored the system’s existing four cabins: Janet’s (1991), Francie’s (1995), Section House (1997) and Ken’s Cabin (1998). SHA claims roughly 7,500 guests visit its cabins each year.
“These huts, they are really neat opportunities for the public to gain access to the national forest and be outdoors and recreate, ski, hike, snowshoe on the national forest,” said Dillon district ranger Bill Jackson, “The planning part of it was good and there was a lot of public support for a hut in that location. I think it provides a little bit more opportunity for the public to get out in the backcountry and experience the outdoors in the winter time.”