Trip Reports: Powderfest At The Fowler/Hilliard Hut, Colorado - January 2014

It had been snowing for nearly three weeks straight in the northern mountains of Colorado. With the northwest storm flow forecasted to dump a few more heavy punches before finally clearing out, last week I checked the 10th Mtn. Division Huts schedule and to my delight I was able to make last minute reservations for three nights at the Fowler/Hilliard Hut, located on a snowy ridge in the mountains north of Leadville, south of Vail. Claudia and I spent a few nights there last spring and had a great time skiing the endless ski terrain around the hut. This trip was shaping up to be even snowier!

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, skiing, photo

It’s a 5 mile, 2500-vertical-foot skin up to the hut. Intending to pack light for this trip, I left my big camera at home and brought only my little Ricoh GR camera. Since I saved all that weight, I figured I might as well carry a box of wine up there!

Shortly after leaving the trailhead, we passed a large group of snowshoers coming back from the hut; luckily for us they had plowed the trail through the deep snow all the way down! And I also realized with giddy anticipation that since the hut was filled with snowshoers for the last days, all that pristine powder up there would be waiting untracked for us!

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, skiing, hut, photo

Day 2: Still snowing heavily the next morning. After breakfast, time to bundle up and head out for some pow turns!

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, skiing, photo

The trees are smothered in snow…

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, skiing, photo

…and we proceed to milk fresh tracks through mellow north facing glades.

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, skiing, photo

Five laps later… legs are tired and stoke is high!

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, moonlight, hut. 10th Mountain Division, photo

Fowler Hilliard Moonlight

A full moon shines through breaking snowstorm clouds at the Fowler/Hilliard 10th Mountain Division hut - January.

That night the snowstorm finally starts to break, revealing the full moon and anticipation for a bluebird powder day tomorrow.

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, skiing, hut, photo

Day 3: Bluebird indeed! Time to get back to work (I mean, fun).

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, skiing, photo

We skin around the bowl and score some longer, steeper lines. Stoke is rising to bliss levels! 

That delicious looking peak across the way is Resolution Mountain; the hut sits on the saddle towards the upper right of the photo. Those drool-inducing lines off Resolution look so tempting, but the tender avy conditions, huge wind loading, and evidence of numerous recent natural slides convinces us not to tickle that dragon.

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, skiing, photo

Loving it.

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, skiing, photo

Skiing all day, just keep going for more until sunset.

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, sunset, photo

Fowler Hilliard Sunset

Back to the hut for dinner and a brief rest for the legs, then back outside for some more powder turns under the full moon!

Colorado,Fowler Hilliard Hut,Gore Range, snowboarding, January, moonlight, photo

Snowboarding powder under a full moon - January.

Shredding some pow in the moonlight. Dreamy…

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, snowboarding, photo

Day 4: Ooooo! A pillow to jump off!

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, skiing, photo

We can’t resist 3 more laps before packing up to leave. But it’s not over yet! We still get a solid 2500′ ride back down through more untracked powder to the truck. Icing on the cake!

I’m not sure that a hut trip could possibly get any better than this. We tried to track up all the powder but it was simply too much for two people to handle. But we certainly tried our best!