Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
Vance’s Cabin is a privately-owned hut managed by the 10th Mountain Division Hut system and because of easy access from the Ski Cooper Ski Area and a short, mellow climb from the trailhead, it’s a favorite for novice hut trippers. Begin by following the wide groomed Nordic ski trail heading northeast from the Ski Cooper base area, on the northeast corner of the parking lot, for a flat, easy warm-up of 0.8 miles. As the trail begins curving to the right, look for the trail that dips into Piney Gulch and crosses the creek. You’ll ascend through an open meadow for about 0.25 miles and bear left to follow the trail up the north side of a small gulch. Atop a small saddle, the trail wraps northeast then turns almost due north for a gradual 0.7-mile climb through the forest. The trees open on a ridgeline below Taylor Hill. Turn west in the open area for the final drop to the cabin which drops 200 feet in less than 0.3 miles. Watch for snags sticking up through the snow and look left for the cabin which sits slightly out of sight.
Vance’s Cabin sleeps 16 but has less social room than most of the other huts and can feel cramped. Reservations are required and there is a per-person fee for each night, for more details and to make reservations check the 10th Mountain Division’s website. Good skiing is easy to access on nearby Chicago Ridge.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland
- Distance: 8.8
Location: 39.361146, -106.305771
This signed corner of the Ski Cooper Ski Area’s parking lot is open to skiers and snowshoers with reservations for Vance’s Cabin. Park here and head east through the parking lot.
Location: 39.360814, -106.302091
Bear left onto this trail–also part of the Nordic ski trail system–to begin. This first stretch of trail rolls gently above Piney Gulch and is a relatively flat and easy warm-up.
Location: 39.36462, -106.2926
Stay left as the road begins climbing and curving to the right. The trail dips toward Piney Gulch, crossing it and climbing the open area to the north. The drop to the creek can be steep. If you’ve got a heavy pack or are at all unstable on snowshoes, it’s worth having poles to help.
Location: 39.369739, -106.291866
Bear left as you approach the end of the gully and climb steeply toward the trees and to a small saddle before wrapping north and east on the blue-blaze-marked trail. You’ll continue climbing gradually headed north.
Location: 39.383639, -106.295235
Near mile 2.4 the trees thin and you’ll enter an open meadow below Taylor Hill. Turn left and downhill for the final 0.3 miles to the cabin. Watch for snags and broken trees as you descend.
Location: 39.383206, -106.299802
You’ll see a small storage shed on the left of the ridgeline, but the hut itself is 100 feet or so off the ridge. There’s a large patio overlooking the valley below.
Location: 39.362838, -106.296158
The mellow, flat warm up follows Nordic Ski trails that are part of Ski Cooper’s trail system.
Location: 39.364364, -106.293068
Location: 39.383473, -106.295128
Looking out over the valley where the trail emerges from the trees on Taylor Hill.
Location: 39.383141, -106.30002
Location: 39.383075, -106.299677
Location: 39.384003, -106.296415
Skinning uphill through the open meadow above Vance’s Cabin.