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New San Juan hut higher and harder

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SILVERTON, Colo. - Most backcountry ski huts built in Colorado during the last 30 years have been geared toward skiers of intermediate ability. The new Opus Hut, located between the towns of Silverton and Ophir, aims for higher and harder.

Bob Kingsley, the owner and developer, says the name Opus is an acronym for Ophir Pass Ultimate Ski. He believes he offers something that a small but ardent group of skiers wants: a hut that is readily accessible but with more challenging ski terrain. It's ideally situated, he says, for above-timberline ski tours on 4,164 metre Lookout Peak and the companion South Lookout Peak.

The hut is just 90 minutes from Highway 550, between Silverton and Ouray, or two hours from Ophir. The avalanche danger on the two routes is about equal, he says, although it looks much more severe from the Ophir side.

Kingsley began thinking about backcountry huts in the 1980s, soon after he moved to Steamboat Springs. He worked as a ski touring guide at the Home Ranch, located about 20 miles north of Steamboat. Later, he worked for a decade as a guide on the 10 th Mountain Trail, in the Aspen-Vail-Breckenridge area.

At some point, he began thinking about building his own hut. He went to courthouses around Colorado to study land records. Moving to the Telluride area, he began scouting old mining parcels. The site he chose, an old mining claim on Mineral Creek, met his every expectation.

But despite his many years in thin air, he found that building a hut at3, 586 metres - a little higher than most huts, and just a whisk below treeline - was a much more difficult proposition than he expected.

"You think you know the mountains. It's different when you're building things. It hits you in the face. You constantly have to do damage control," says Kingsley.

"There's so much you have to learn about yourself. I really learned to appreciate the endeavors of those miners, their endurance. It has changed my whole outlook, and I have spent plenty of time in mountains all over the world."

The 167- square metre hut sleeps 13 people and will be equipped with blankets and pillows, as in European huts, so visitors need only take sheets and covers. It is heated with solar thermal and electrified with photovoltaic panels.

For more particulars, see http://opushut.com/

 

Canadian parks explore renewable fuel for huts

GOLDEN, B.C. - Potential for erecting 10-metre wind turbines near backcountry huts will be tested at a temporary weather station in Yoho National Park this winter.

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