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Walter's Cabin Sign.
Photo: Walter's Cabin Sign.

Trip Report: Backcountry Skiing

Walter's Cabin at Shrine Mountain Inn, March 2010.


View from Walter's Cabin Porch.
Photo: View from Walter's Cabin Porch.

Click here to see the photo album from this trip.

This page gives a report of our trip to Summit County / Vail, Colorado for backcountry skiing at Walter's Cabin. Walter's is one of three cabins at Shrine Mountain Inn. Although privately owned, reservations are obtained through The 10th Mountain Division Huts Association. You can read about the cabin by clicking Walter's Cabin Details Page or Guide Book Excerpts here or in the sidebar.

We drove from Amarillo to Summit County Friday night. We had a nice Italian food dinner at Giampietro Pasta & Pizzeria in Breckenridge. We always arrive several days ahead and spend a few days getting acclimated to the elevation before hiking up to the huts which are typically above 11,000 feet. We stayed at the Snowshoe Motel in Frisco. It has inexpensive, (for Summit County, Colorado) comfortable, and not very luxurious rooms.

Susan and Connie atop Loveland Pass.
Photo: Susan and Connie atop Loveland Pass.

Saturday, we bought some groceries and then rented randonee ski gear for Susan at Mountain Outfitters in Breckenridge. We had brunch at the Sunshine Cafe in Silverthorne. It is a great place to eat, especially breakfast. We drove past Arapahoe Basin Ski area and up to the top of Loveland Pass for the incredible view from the pass. We went to the Dillon Dam Brewery for some carbohydrate loading. When I had been there previously, I thought their beer was better than I did this time. Susan, exhibiting her sense of adventure, suggested we go ice skating which is something none of us had done in a long time. We rented skates and skated on the frozen lake at Keystone Lodge on this beautiful sunny day.

Bob at the Dillon Dam Brewery.
Photo: Bob at the Dillon Dam Brewery.

Ice Skating at Keystone.
Photo: Ice Skating at Keystone.

Later that afternoon, we met up with some of our family who had been skiing at Copper Mountain. We had sushi at the Kemosabe Sushi Bar in Frisco. I thought it was mediocre. We had a wonderful dinner next door at Silverheels Bar & Grill.

On Sunday, we had a nice breakfast at the historic Arapahoe Cafe in Dillon before driving over to Arrowhead Ski Area next to Beaver Creek. Applying what I learned from Don Shefchik, field director at Paragon Guides, I gave Susan an introductory course in randonee skiing. This included a general field check of her gear, putting climbing skins on and taking them off, kick turns, and making sure we all remembered how to snow plow. Then, we had an excellent late lunch at the Gore Range Brewery in Edwards. I also had some of their delectable beer. We watched some of the last day of the Olympics while we relaxed.

Next, we went shopping. We went to Ptarmigan Sports in Edwards where Connie was looking for some new Nordic ski gloves. We visited the Bag and Pack in Avon where I bought some new skins. Last we went to the Frisco Nordic Center where Connie and Susan found some new gloves they liked. I sat in a rocking chair by the fire while they shopped. We ended the evening with an absolutely atrocious dinner at the Blue Spruce Inn in Frisco. The description of this restaurant and their menu looked inviting on their website but I would not recommend going there.

Walter's Cabin.
Photo: Walter's Cabin.

Monday morning, we packed up our hut skiing gear and went to the Sunshine Cafe for breakfast. The Snowshoe Motel would not let us store our luggage with them so we rented a storage room in Silverthorne so we would not have to leave our valuables in the car at the trailhead.

Relaxing at the Cabin.
Photo: Relaxing at the Cabin.

We had arranged for someone with a snow machine to haul a load of our gear up near the cabin. We arrived at the Vail Pass trailhead at about 10:30 AM, met the gear hauler, and started up the trail. We made the 2.7 miles with about 600 feet of climbing in about 2 hours. We lounged around the cabin the remainder of the day playing cards and drinking wine.

Susan and Bob Ready for a Tour.
Photo: Susan and Bob Ready for a Tour.

Tuesday, Susan and I toured up to Black Lakes Ridge directly northeast of Shrine Pass Road as described by Brian Litz in Colorado Hut to Hut, Volume 1 Northern & Central Regions. We had fun making turns coming down in the widely spaced trees. The round trip from Walter's Cabin took about 2 hours including a fair amount of lounging around at the summit enjoying the view. Later, we took a late afternoon tour exploring the area around Shrine Mountain Inn.

Connie and Susan on Shrine Ridge.
Photo: Connie and Susan on Shrine Ridge.

Wednesday, we skied up to the saddle on Shrine Ridge just south of the peak. This is the first part of the route to Fowler/Hilliard Hut described in the guide books. The panorama from ridge is dramatic with views of the Holy Cross Wilderness Area and Mount of the Holy Cross to the southwest, the Gore Range to the north, and the Ten Mile Range to the east. We hiked down just below the ridge to get out of the wind and lunched on bagels, sausage, and Emmentaler Swiss cheese. The ski down had at least one member of our party screaming with joy and exhilaration. This 2.6 mile round trip with about 500 feet of ascent took us 2 1/2 hours including lots of contemplative scenery gawking, picture taking, and a leisurely lunch.

Lunch on Shrine Ridge.
Photo: Lunch on Shrine Ridge.

After getting back to the cabin, the girls went over the Sherry's yurt and got massages, now that's roughing it in the backcountry.

Thursday morning, we packed, cleaned the cabin, and skied back to the trailhead. We had been blessed with mild sunny weather the entire trip. We celebrated the end with Champagne. We retrieved our luggage from the storage building, went back to the motel, cleaned up, and drove to Breckenridge to return the rental gear to Mountain Outfitters.

Celebrating at the Trailhead.
Photo: Celebrating at the Trailhead.

We had previously made reservations to have dinner at the Alpenglow Stube restaurant atop the mountain at Keystone Resort. We took the two long gondola rides from the base to top as the sun was setting. I thought the evening was one of the best dining experiences I have ever had.

Friday, we skiied and rode at Copper Mountain

Saturday, we started the drive home. We stopped in Leadville on the way to watch some skijoring. The events moved very slowly, especially the over 2 hour Calcutta auction for the teams. I think it was much more fun watching the edited version in one of Warren Miller's ski films than being there in person. The remainder of the drive home was uneventful.

You can find links to reports and photos from some of our other trips on my skiing page.