Denver, CO: Backcountry Skiing to the Nokhu Hut
Find easy-access powder stashes on this beginner-friendly backcountry ski trip to the Nokhu Hut.
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If you’re one of those sadistic backcountry skiers who like 12-hour tours to 50-degree descents, this is not the trip for you. If, on the other hand, you like 30-minute tours to scenic glades through virgin powder, this trip is for you. You’re welcome.
- Trip shape: Out-and-back
- Distance to hut: 1.6 miles, <1 hour
- Touring from hut: 2.5 miles, 600 feet of elevation gain
The Skin In:
The Nokhu Hut nestles in Poudre Canyon, a criminal 1.6-mile skin from the trailhead via a snow-covered forest service road. The skin in will take even beginners less than an hour. We started at sunset after working a half day and still arrived before complete darkness set in. Get beta from the map above.
Two nights spent in Nokhu pretty much ruined any desires I ever had for that drudgery known as “winter camping.” Instead of falling asleep, frozen, in the fetal position at 5 (because what else are you going to do once it’s dark outside?), the night raged on in the 75-degree Nokhu. Laughing, games, libations, s’mores, headroom, sleeping on top of my bag—need I go on? At a few points we even needed to crack the windows to cool down a bit. The hut itself is quaint—a summer camp-style, wooden shelter with two sets of bunk beds and a wood-burning stove. The bottom bunks are full-size, so the hut itself can sleep six comfortably.
We avoided the steeps because they’re north-facing and more than 32 degrees, though I suspect the slopes off Mts. Richthofen and Mahler will ski well in the spring corn cycle. Instead, we looped south to Lake Agnes and around to the <32-degree slopes above treeline to the west. When we hit it, the days-old snow had faceted to create a wind crust about 3 inches thick. You could glide over it when cruising, but you’d break through when setting a skin track or laying into a turn. The best skiing we found was actually back below treeline on the return. Like a mini terrain park, natural features dot this area just south of Nokhu. Sparse trees make the skiing fun, but not dangerous. The Nokhu Crags tower overhead to the east, providing constant eye candy, too.
All images taken by Will Rochfort, @twomillstones.
- State: CO
- City: Denver
- Distance: 0.0