Ski to the Divide – Skinner Hut

A three-day trip to Skinner Hut near Leadville, CO.

I love hut trips.  They combine several things I enjoy in life: Great scenery, good friends, an enjoyable meal…“A dinner party with a ski trip attached” is how I always think of hut trips.

A bit more of a European-like experience in the Colorado backcountry during winter.

For those not familiar with the 10th Mtn hut system, they are backcountry huts accessible by skis or snowshoes in the Colorado Rockies.

Perhaps a bit decadent, but immensely enjoyable.

The hut of choice would be Skinner Hut. At 10.5 miles and almost 2600′ elevation gain (1500′ of it in the last three miles), the hut is a challenging one to reach but, like every hut, so worth it.

We started at the Turquoise Lake winter trailhead at Leadville, CO and made our way up Hagerman Pass Road.

We soon gained elevation on the rolling terrain. A nice of view of the large lake was had below.

Our route then briefly joined up wit the Colorado Trail / Continental Divide Trail. My friend Wendy is planning on thru-hiking the CT this summer, a photo was mandatory.

Shortly after, the steep part of the approach began. Some tight switchbacks with 1500′ gain for three miles. On skis, with fully loaded packs, it was  “fun”!

We did have a brief reprieve in a large meadow after one particularly steep climb.

The hut  was reached with some amazing views to the Continental Divide.

..and it was nearly buried under snow!

After wonderful winter night by the fire, Bart and a fellow hut-mate named Alex, Mark and myself headed up to Hagerman Pass on the Continental Divide.


Wind sculpted snow on the way up to the divide.

Looking to Divide Peak 

We soon made our way up the wind scoured Hagerman Pass road. We bare booted up as it skiing was really not an option.

The views at and near the pass were fantastic.

We made out way back to the hut.

After a lunch of hot soup, I decided to join Wendy and Leslie for another ~2hr ski.

We headed back to the hut where I started to get dinner going. Based on the shots from my borrowed camera, looks like there were some roof jumping shenanigans going on! 🙂

While dinner was on the stove, I helped Wendy with her planning of The Colorado Trail.

Dinner was enjoyed…and so was an amazing alpenglow view outside the hut.

The following morning, we had one last rooftop shot before skiing down.

After an interesting ski down, we came to Hagerman Pass road again. We decided to ski across the lake to mix things up and make for a scenic, if shorter, return.

The vehicles were reached. Comfy cotton changed into and another great trip was concluded.  A wonderful, if slightly luxurious way, to see the backcountry.  But even dirt bag hikers don’t mind a great weekend with friends, wonderful scenery and good food. 🙂

A slide show of all the photos:

More info:

  • Read all about hut trip logistics (reservations, what to take, etc.) here
  • The link  for Skinner Hut has excellent info on directions, route description and a very good printable map of the immediate area
  • Use the Nat Geo TI Map #126 for a larger overview of the area
  • Want some post-trip grub? I am always partial to the Golden Burro for basic comfort food. Found in downtown Leadville, it is a long-time staple of this town which (thankfully!) is still a little rough and tumble.  Looking for free-range grass-fed consciously raised tofu? Not your place. Want a good and cheap burger with a coke and fries? Perfect!


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Alex North
Alex North
10 years ago

Paul, good fun meeting you and your group up at Skinner. Great pics. /A

2 years ago

Planning a trip to Skinner, did you think crossing the Lake was worth it? The 2/2.5 mi and lots of vert saving sounds good