Hut Etiquette for Backcountry Skiers

If you are into backcountry skiing and love to get away from people a trip to a ski hut can be a great experience. There is nothing like skiing for hours into the mountains and ending up at a big cabin! In the United States, the Tenth Mountain Hut System in Colorado runs a system of beautifully built huts. The hut system is named after the United States Army 10th Mountain Division that distinguished itself in battle during the Second World War in the mountains of Italy.

The hut system started with 2 huts in 1982 and now in 2013 have over 17 huts that people can ski and hike to. Because they are so popular, people have to enter a lottery for a chance to get a reservation at one or more of the huts. After they get a reservation they are given a lock combination so they can enter the hut when they arrive. Your party may be by itself or it may be with another party. This is not a problem if a few rules to conduct (or etiquette) are followed.

Being in a hut is a lot like communal living. You have to respect each others privacy and allow them their space so they can feel comfortable. This is usually not a problem. Most hut skiers have done it before. Plus the backcountry ski community is pretty relaxed and easy going. Often, two groups that meet at a hut get along very well. The two groups can share fire gathering duties. Plus they can help get water from the water pump located inside the hut. This is a big help since water is always needed for washing dishes and for drinking and for personal hygiene.

A few suggestions for those who haven’t been to a hut before: The group that arrived at the hut first probably has the benefit of selecting bunks or rooms first. That

keeps it simple even though the bunk that you wanted may not be available. That just happens and has to be accepted. Cell phones should really be turned off if there is reception. At the very least, the cell phone ring setting should be set to vibrate. Any cell phone conversations should be held outside away from the main group. Most people go to a hut for some peace and quiet. They really don’t need to be to be upset by hearing a cell phone ring or conversation. Noise control is a big issue at some huts if there are a lot of skiers staying there. Quiet time usually goes from 10 pm to 6-7 am.

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Loud groups can become obnoxious and really trying to another group and can generate bad feelings in the hut. That is really not what you want. If there is a noise problem tell the other group in a respectful way that you would appreciate if people kept their voices down. Most people often don’t know they are being loud since they are so excited just to be there. Be friendly, ask respectfully and people will usually comply graciously. If they don’t, there is not much you can do. Most often, after an hour, or so, people calm down and get tired anyway.

During the night, you may go to sleep early while there is a large group of people partying downstairs in the main room. Ear plugs are a must for hut trips in any case. Except in the most quiet of huts, there is always someone getting up at night to use the bathroom. If it’s just one person that is fine. But if there are several people moving around all the time, ear plugs are a blessing.

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The next day, sharing space at the kitchen counter and allowing people to prepare meals is appreciated. A joint effort in washing dishes spreads good will between groups and makes for a more relaxed atmosphere. When people start heading out to go skiing, let the other group go first. It’s usually to your advantage since they will dig out any built up snow off the deck first and break trail “out the door” as it were. They will boot pack the bottom of the stairs and make your exit just a lot easier. Plus they will take it as a another goodwill gesture. Once the main group is out the door you can sweep the floor or straighten up the hut even more with fewer people in the area. Upon your departure you will need to pack out all garbage. In addition, the hut must be and cleaned to the same condition that you found it in. Always leave a new supply of firewood for the next group.

Skiing to a hut is a fabulous experience. If you have never done it, you’ll have a memory of a life time. Just remember that you will probably not be the only group there. Just a few acts of kindness and thoughtfulness will make your stay a lot more fun. Hut etiquette comes naturally if you are open minded and want the other person to have as much fun as you are!


by Jean R Vives