Colorado’s Euro-style ski traverse: the highway connecting from hut to hut

This cabin ride through Colorado’s San Juan Mountains is the closest you can get to skiing in Europe without hopping a plane.

The borders are closed, but that doesn’t mean big ski trips are broke. This spring, San Juan Mountain Guides (SJMG) is hiring one European style hut to hut tour from Silverton to Ouray, Colorado, with overnight stays in two or three full-service cabins along the way.

This crossing offers some of the best ski tours in the country. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for it.

The American Haute Route

Colorado San Juan mountains The Interconnect Route, also known as the American Haute Route, meanders through the San Juans from Silverton to Ouray. The hut tour traverses 13,000-foot passes, carving down powdery shells, and climbing evergreen shoulders.

It’s inspired by the Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route, but it’s not just the route that is euro-inspired. The rest of the trip – format, accommodation, discounts – exudes a European hut atmosphere.

This trip is unique in the USA. While there are plenty of backcountry huts, there are few, if any, fully-equipped and assisted hut-to-hut trips. And trips that focus on skiing in the best terrain in the region are even more sparse connect one hut to the next.

Credit: MTN guide

Connecting Route of the San Juan Mountains: Cabins & More

On the Interconnect, guests spend the night in several full-service huts on the way. No need to lug your sleeping bag or wear the same smelly long underwear for 4 days. SJMG Staff Shuttle the bulk of your gear. You only carry a daypack with lunch and flight gear and earn your trains.

There are two ways to ski on the Interconnect Hut Ride: the Join Route 121 and the Join Route 22. Both interconnect itineraries are 5 days and 4 nights, including all meals, accommodation, and IFMGA / AMGA guided tour. The guide to skier ratio is 1: 4.

Ophir Pass Ultimate Ski (OPUS) Hut

Interconnect 121 departs from Silverton and climbs up to the OPUS Hut, a high-altitude wood and stone backcountry cabin that hangs on the southern slopes of 13,666 foot Lookout Peak. The cabin is surrounded by powdery tree runs and creamy peels ready for skinning and skiing. Guests have at least half a day to sample the snow before toasting the guides and goods and enjoying a delicious meal.

On day two, guests molt over a 13,000 foot high couloir before dropping to Columbine Lake and a dramatic traverse of multiple pools. From the shoulder of Trico Peak, where the counties of San Juan, San Miguel, and Ouray come together, descend to the Red Mountain Alpine Lodge (RMAL). Depending on the conditions (and how late you want to arrive for Apres) the route may be direct or include bonus laps.

Credit: MTN guide

Red Mountain Alpine Lodge (RMAL)

The recently opened RMAL is a striking timber frame lodge with floor to ceiling windows and cathedral ceilings in the main room. The lodge is minutes from Red Mountain Pass on the former Red Mountain City site. Despite the proximity to the city, it feels like in the middle of nowhere.

Curl up on the massive hand-forged steel island to order a drink from the lodge’s bar, or curl up in a sheepskin-covered chair in front of the blazing fire. Both interconnect itineraries spend 2 nights in this luxurious yet cozy lodge. There are countless opportunities for skiing here, whether you love trees, open bowls or alpine peaks.

Red Mountain Alpine Lodge (RMAL)Credit: MTN guide

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Hayden Backcountry Lodge

On Day 4, the tour climbs another 13,000 foot couloir towards the historic Imogene Basin towards Senator Beck Basin before descending the gentle slopes to the Hayden Backcountry Lodge. The highlights of this completely renovated historic log cabin include a cedar whirlpool and an in-house cook. The tour ends with a loop through the Camp Bird Corridor in the shadow of the mountain. Sneffels and Yankee Boy Basin before a shuttle brings guests back to Ouray, Colo.

Interconnect 22 follows roughly the same route and traverses similar terrain, but differs in placement. (It includes 2 nights at Red Mountain Alpine Lodge and 2 nights at Hayden Backcountry Lodge.)

Hayden Backcountry LodgeCredit: MTN guide

How to book your interconnect experience

Every interconnect hut trip will be carried out in spring 2021 with limited departures. Due to COVID-19, the group size is limited to eight people – unless you book a private group. Contact San Juan Mountain Guides for more information or book online. Prices start at $ 1,995 per person.

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