Trip Report: Backcountry Skiing
Walter's Cabin at Shrine Mountain Inn, March 2010.
Click here to see more photos 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
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.
Saturday, we bought some groceries and then rented randonee ski gear for Susan at
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
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.
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
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
gave Susan an introductory course in randonee skiing. This included a
check of her gear, putting climbing skins on and taking them off, kick
making sure we all remembered how to snow plow. Then, we had an excellent
at the Gore Range Brewery
I also had some of their delectable beer. We watched some of the last
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
I have ever had.
Friday, we skiied and rode at
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