"It will serve an awful lot of wild snow"
Area backcountry skiers may have a new hut in which to rest their weary legs if an effort to expand a nearby hut system is successful. Hawk Greenway, manager of the Alfred Braun Hut System, is asking all interested backcountry skiers to support a special use permit to allow construction of a seventh hut in the popular hut system. The Alfred Braun hut system serves terrain between Crested Butte and Aspen.
The new hut, whose working name is the "Taylor Pass Hut," would be located approximately four and a half miles east of the Friends Hut, one mile due south of Taylor Pass, and six to eight miles from the Barnard and Goodwin Greene huts, respectively.
In a press release, Greenway says the proposed hut location provides good travel routes to four other nearby huts, including the Friends, the Lindley, Markley, Goodwin Greene, and the Barnard.
Besides serving as an important link between the Alfred Braun huts and the Friends Hut (which operates as its own non-profit), Greenway says the proposed hut will provide a staging point for exceptional high country skiing. "The Taylor Pass hut will make possible a circular route around the Star and Taylor massif," Greenway says.
According to Greenway, the hut will serve "incredible expert terrain" and more moderate slopes below timberline, including an old forest fire burn site. "It will serve an awful lot of wild snow," he says.
While the proposed hut will provide access to moderate terrain, Greenway cautions that the avalanche-prone nature of the area will require expert mountaineering skills or the services of a qualified guide in order to be navigated safely. "We consider it generally expert terrain," says Greenway.
The proposed hut will be the Alfred Braun system’s first foray beyond White River National Forest and onto the Gunnison National Forest. Therefore, Greenway says, construction of the hut will be contingent on a new Forest Service special use permit.
Bill Jackson, the recreation staff officer of the Gunnison Ranger District, says the proposal for the new hut will have to clear a two-step Forest Service screening process in order for it to be considered in the formal application process. "Many proposals don’t make it through the screening process," Jackson says.
If the proposal clears the Forest Service screening process, the project proponent will submit a formal application for the special use permit. Such an application triggers an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The EIS will inventory all environmental and archeological issues associated with the proposed hut, and will give the public an opportunity to comment.
Crested Butte resident Xavier Fane, who is a board member of Friends Hut Inc., says he has mixed feelings about the Taylor Pass hut and needs to study the proposal further.
He says the construction of the hut is likely to put additional user pressure on the Friends Hut because of its close proximity. "(The Friends Hut) is pretty close to its maximized flow of traffic now," he says. "The new hut can only mean more."
But Fane supports the idea of more people accessing the backcountry and therefore is leaning toward supporting the new hut. "I think it’s a healthy thing for people to get out into the woods and enjoy the mountains," he says.
The Alfred Braun Hut System has operated six ski huts around Ashcroft and along Richmond Ridge for over 40 years. It is part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, a system of 29 backcountry huts in Colorado. All the Alfred Braun huts exist and operate on Forest Service land under Forest Service special use permits and are available to the backcountry skiing public on a first-come, first-served basis. They are used only from November 1 to May 31, depending on snow conditions, in order to avoid environmental impacts during the biologically active summer months, according to Greenway.
The proposed building will accommodate eight to 10 people and be constructed primarily out of native materials. The passive solar design includes a wood stove, an outhouse, a deck, a grey-water sink drain system and a solar panel for 12-volt light system. According to Greenway, it will be built in keeping with "the style and feel of the Friends Hut and the Alfred Braun huts."
The hut will be provisioned "over snow," according to Greenway. No new road will be constructed to serve it.
Greenway is urging supporters of the new hut to contact the Gunnison Ranger District to implore the Forest Service to allow the hut to be considered for a formal special use permit application.
For more information on the Alfred Braun Hut System, go to http://huts.org/