Not so much a best kept secret anymore, the network of cabins that make up Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division Hut Association continue to grow in popularity with each passing year.

This year the non-profit was besieged with more than 1,500 applicants to its winter lottery system and was able to fill 87 percent, said reservationist Jenifer Blomquist. Every March the organization conducts a lottery – the deadline being Feb 15 – to rent a network of 37 cabins around Aspen, Vail and Breckenridge. Special preference is given to association members. 

Named after the 10th Mountain Division of the US Army and founded by some of its original members, Blomquist said the network of huts was originally created as a way to connect Aspen and Vail by cabin system. You can do it in 10 days, but most people don’t do that.

“What most people do is stay at the same hut for two nights and do some backcountry skiing in the area,” she said. “Others will go hut to hut but usually do a shorter trip, like maybe connect three huts in a three or four night trip.”

The 10th Mountain non-profit was formed in the 1980s, but the origins of the huts for cross country skiing goes back to the early 1900s. Members of the original 10th Mountain Army Division were recruited from the National Ski Patrol. Many were skiers, some forest rangers, lumberjacks or outfitters. After the war, several of the veterans led by Fritz Benedict were involved in creating the modern hut system, some say modeled after what they observed in Europe.

While it’s too late to reserve space for the coming winter, Blomquist says summers are always less crowded. Running from July through September, visitors interested in mountain biking or hiking can begin booking summer trips in October.

Photo credit: Peter Estin, Flickr Creative Commons