Bob Kingsley spent eight years guiding at Colorado’s famed 10th Mountain Division Huts and found it…frustrating. He wanted to offer people a remote hut that could access easy to intermediate terrain like the 10th Mountain huts and hardcore terrain, too. So ever since that first year guiding he’s been looking for just the right spot to build his own hut. After 16 years of searching and then the last four summers pounding nails, it’s complete, and the Opus Hut, a skin-in, ski-out cabin a few miles from Silverton, is about to open.
And unlike many of the 10th Mountain huts, Opus has something for everyone.
“Right out the back door is Owl Meadow. That’s excellent beginner terrain. Low angle. No avalanche danger,” Kingsley says. More intermediate terrain lies to the south. “That gets a little sun crusted, but bust through and you’re skiing powder through sparse trees right to the valley floor.”
The north-facing slopes of Ophir Pass less than a mile away are steeper and 13,661-foot Lookout Peak right behind the hut has the goods, too. “There are crags and big faces and couloirs,” Kingsley says. And right next door 13,380-foot South Lookout peak has “…phenomenal terrain. There’s enough there to keep me busy for the rest of my life.”
The cost for a bunk is $30, while private rooms cost $60 to $150 (some sleep up to four). If you want to rent the whole house, which holds 16, it’s $490 a night. Wood is included and there’s a hutkeeper who stokes the fires and cooks breakfast and dinner with food you supply.
The hut sits above 11,000 feet. The three-mile skin to the hut, off state highway 550 near the town of Ophir, is relatively mellow, although if you want a grunt there are more difficult approaches, too. You can track in from Telluride’s Gold Hill, for instance, though Kingsley calls it “a tricky skin,” with some off-camber terrain and more avalanche exposure. (Given Colorado’s reputation for being the most dangerous state in the Lower 48 for slides, if you aren’t dialed on the San Juan snowpack Kingsley advises hiring a guide.)
As for amenities, the hut itself features a few virtues that are unusually green.
Kingsley funneled water from a series of gutters to an underwater storage tank. The tank is deep enough to prevent it from freezing and the water is filtered both going into the tank from the roof and again before it emerges from any tap in the house. Kingsley argues that the system is way greener and involves less energy than burning wood to boil snow. “In working on 10th Mountain Division they boil water. The house gets way too hot and steamy. Then I was in Switzerland where they collect the meltwater and it’s much more efficient,” he says.
There are also solar panels on the roof that provide electricity and heat water for cooking, and a heat exchanger in the wood stove brings that water up from warm to hot. That hot water recirculates beneath the floors, which like the clapboards, are made of reclaimed wood from a 100-year-old dairy barn. There’s another bonus to the warm water, Kingsley says: “It keeps the composting toilet from freezing, because you need it warm enough to keep composting.” Not composting, not good, he says, and it’s a problem he’s seen in other green buildings in the high Rockies.
Not matter how green, though, the bottom line of Opus is that it gets you to the white.
Reservations and other info: Opus Hut