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Greetings gang,

I am planning a trip out to Colorado this January and was hoping to get some recommendations. Here's my scoop:

Trip details: 7 days-ish
Participants: Myself, my gal pal, and potentially my dog - all winter lovers!
Hopes: Igloos, hot springs, and a chance to teach my lady how to tele-ski

I would like to figure out a 2-5 day loop in some beautiful, powdery wilderness where we can ski and snowshoe to our hearts content. Ideally, there would be some type of undeveloped springs nearby (although i'm not sure of many that haven't been commercialized yet). I was thinking that I would build a quinzee every/every other night for shelter. I was also hoping to find a place with gentle enough slopes to give tele lessons to a beginner skier.

Forgoing the springs idea, I looked into some of the hut-to-hut trips, but was daunted at how much $$ this trip would end up costing (grad student=no cash). I also had trouble finding backcountry lodging that welcomed pets.

Since i haven't lived in Colorado for 8 years, I'm also a bit rusty on what my best options are. That's where you come in: any advice?? Maybe a trip up to Aspen's Conundrum Springs? Maybe something in the Glenwood area that keeps us close to the hippy dips? Or maybe something completely different?

Any and all wisdom would be greatly appreciated!

Cheers,
Matt
 

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Get on the Huts now. You'll have to check out the forum on huts.org to find space- might be tricky to get hut-to-hut, it will likely be just to-hut. There might be some openings on their availability page, but the better huts fill up. I reckon it's around $30 per person per night.
 

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Conundrum is a really bad idea. They've gotten a good bit of snow and the hike involves crossing huge avalanche paths. You're pretty hardcore even amongst present company on the buzz if you're gonna sleep in a makeshift shelter in the Colorado backcountry in January for a week with a lady! Sounds like complete fail for 99.9% of couples. I hope you getter dun and tell us the stories.
Joe
 

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Get on the Huts now. You'll have to check out the forum on huts.org to find space- might be tricky to get hut-to-hut, it will likely be just to-hut. There might be some openings on their availability page, but the better huts fill up. I reckon it's around $30 per person per night.
Ever thought of reading? Give it a try and you'll find out why he isn't going the hut route.
 

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While there are no hot springs nearby, I might suggest you try staying in the yurts or cabins in the Colorado State Forest on Cameron Pass. The prices may be cheaper than the 10th mtn huts, and you should have plenty of access to beginner friendly terrain. There are also similar cabins in Sylvan Lake State Park, but I haven't stayed there.
 

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Not to be a buzz killer but teaching your lady to tele ski would be akin to teaching her to kayak, a risky proposition. Add in variable snow and cold nights, with lot's of energy burning on hikes, building shelters etc. it sounds, well, let's say unromantic. Tele skiing is best learned on groomed snow and then moved to deeper or variable snow conditions that come with backcountry areas. I would be more inclined to combine some resort days with some day trips from trailheads for "backcountry" and roadside hotsprings for apre activities. I do some winter ski touring with camping involved and it is tough to stay warm and comfortable. Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
What a fantastic community - thanks for all of the responses!

Good to know that conundrum is a no-go - bummer, though. Also good to know about the Cameron Pass cabins - I'll check them out.

A final detail to throw in the mix:
The lady friend is a dog sledding guide in Northern Minnesota (beautiful and bad-ass). We've done a couple of week-long winter trips into the boundary waters on xc's pulling pulks, building igloos, etc. Seems like we were able to strike a good balance between recreation and romance then, so I don't have any worries this time around.

If anyone has other advice regarding backcountry loops...or just fantastic places to set up base camp and ski for a while - please pass along any info you're willing to share.

Cheers,
Matt
 

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A good option for you would be the Hutchinson-Barnett cabin on Marshall Pass near Salida. It is a first-come, first-serve cabin that is maintained by the forest service. It is stocked with firewood and has bunks. It is located very near treeline, and there are many well-spaced south-facing glades off the southern flank of 13,971' Mt. Ouray...however, Marshall Pass road is not plowed in the winter and would be a long 8 mile slog in without a sled, and there are no hotsprings immediately nearby. Although Mt. Princeton, Cottonwood, and Joyful Journey hotsprings are all less than a 30 minute drive away.
 

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Cumbres and Rabbit Ears Passes offer good snow and moderate terrain with room to roam. Cumbres gets lots of snowmobile use and Rabbit Ears could be similar these days. Rabbit Ears has been getting more snow this winter.

For a big wilderness experience I’ve thought of going into Weminuche Pass. There are a couple of primitive hot springs in the South San Juans, but they’re too low in elevation to be close to good slope skiing.

Mid-winter travel in the Colorado mountains is more difficult than northern Minnesota. The snowpack is deeper and not as firm.
 

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As far as all the huts go, it is considered bad form to have a dog there unless it has running water. The reasoning is this: in the huts without running water, you have to melt snow in order to get your drinking water. Obviously, you don't want to be drinking dog pee. I have dogs and can control them well enough to the point that I can even direct them to an area to do their bathroom duties. That said, I would never bring a dog to a hut. It is just one of those rules you don't bend.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Good to know about dog etiquette at huts. Also good to know that my Minnesota winter snow experience doesn't directly correlate. I've done a fair amount of backcountry skiing in Wyoming, Montana, and Washington as well, so at least I have a moderate amount of confidence with deeper/more fragile snowpacks. Thanks for the reminder, though!

Maybe it makes sense to separate all of the various elements that I was hoping to compile into one trip.

Spend a few days skiing inbounds until she gets her turns down - maybe someplace smaller like Ski Cooper or Monarch in BV. Then spend the next day or two hanging out at one of these affordable backcountry cabins. The Hutchinson-Barnett spot sounds great - although there isn't much literature on-line about what it is or how to get there. (Would it be cool to bring a dog there...or should the same hut rules apply??) We'd probably have to sweet talk someone into giving us a sled ride up...or use an entire day walking the 8 miles in.

After a bit of powder skiing, then we could head to a wilderness area for a couple of days. Build our igloo, enjoy some hot springs, etc. Weminuche looks like a gorgeous area for an adventure like that.

Thinking that this is starting to sound like a wonderful trip. Again thanks for the advice and feedback. If anyone has more suggestions, throw 'em my way.
 

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howdy...I have a shack up in the San Juans @ 11,820 with woodstove and solar power; like a homemade 18' yurt ,sleeps 4. I don't advertise it or rent it but this is the Buzz site and perhaps it would work for part of your trip. It is located directly across from Silverton Mtn Ski area; about 3 miles and 1500' climb to the site. Ski right from the front door on easy to moderate to extreme terrain. 2 miles due east of Red Mtn Pass Hwy 550. Ouray has hot pools and is close. Backcountry skiing on / around red Mtn Pass is good. Touring over to Telluride is possible but ave danger can be high. Do you both have beacons etc? Dogs are fine as they are generally better behaved than my pals and better groomed to boot.
cheers
chris
 

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My 2 cents: Monarch for a couple of days of lessons/acclimatizing. (Tele Thursdays). Cooper also a possibility. Hot Springs at Mt. Princeton /Cottonwood/etc. Backcountry touring abounds. (Talk to Salida Mountain Sports or the Trailhead in BV) Check out the Lost Wonder Hut. Sleep in a snowcave or the back of your truck if you want for a night or two, but cheap hotels in Salida, Buena Vista etc. save a lot of time that you'd probably rather use for skiing. This is the center of the Hot Springs Skiing Universe
 

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Ski Sunlight, then Penny Hot Springs near Redstone then ski MClure pass/Marble
 
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