Snowmobiling is an inherently cold sport. Between, well, the snow and the wind chill created by riding your sled, sooner or later most riders are open to a quick break to warm up their hands and grab a snack. Warming huts offer a safe, controlled climate shelter for backcountry snowmobile and ski globetrotters to take a break, rest, fuel up, or escape unexpected harsh winter conditions.
Initially established as a place of respite for weary cross country skiers, warming huts are usually found along popular ski and snowmobile trails and may be available for a short period of warming, or overnight stays with basic cot accommodations. Who operates, and who can use warming huts, varies greatly. Some locations are maintained and regulated by winter sports clubs, while others are the long term project of public service organizations like a local Boy Scout Troop. Likewise, certain warming huts require advanced reservations for use, while other huts are open to anyone who may happen to stop by.
I first learned about warming huts while I was a member of our local search and rescue team. Many of our members would ride their snowmobiles to a local warming hut, stay the night and return the next day. “How bizarre,” I thought. What if there were other people there? Awkward, right? Wrong. It seems that part of the fun of visiting warming huts along winter trails is getting to meet the other voyagers who have stopped in as well. Travelers are able to compare notes, share stories and meet new friends through a little social time at the hut.
Established, well-known warming huts are sprinkled throughout the United States along many well-travelled snowmobile and ski trails. To learn about huts in your area, or along the route of your next planned ride, contact the U.S. Forest Service, nearby ski resorts or local snowmobile clubs. These resources are usually more than happy to provide you with a list of warming huts, allowing you to make reservations or contact the hut operator prior to your trip.
When you do choose to take advantage of these nifty backcountry outposts, be sure to leave the warming hut in great condition by hauling out your trash and not leaving behind any sign you were there, besides perhaps a note in the guestbook! Remember that many of the huts operated by clubs or Scouting organizations run solely off of donations and volunteer labor, so a contribution to the host organization is always a nice touch. Besides, what’s a few bucks when they saved you from having to ride back to the truck in a blizzard?
Next time you hop on your snowmobile to get away from it all, consider planning your venture around a stop at a nearby warming hut. The experience will make you a part of a backcountry snow sports tradition and is sure to warm up your buns.