Hut Up: How (and why) to do a hut a trip this winter

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Taking on a hut trip in Colorado's backcountry is truly the adventure of a lifetime. Out there in the middle of nowhere, under Orion's Belt by night and Colorado's sheltering blue skies by day, you somehow get closer to the source.

But you'd better come prepared, lest you end up spending the night cozied up with your partner in a five-by-five cave made of snow.

First things first. You gotta know your shit. You should be able to navigate easily with a compass and topo (sure you can bring along a GPS, but batteries die, things get dropped and while carrying technology into the woods can surely save your ass, it is also certain to take away from the fun of this truly atavistic experience).

Aside from the standard backcountry stuff, like avalanche awareness, you'd also better be in shape. The 30 huts -- and one lowly yurt -- of the 10th Mountain Division Hut System are located about six to eight miles from each other. And while this may not seem like much from flatland, head up to 11,000 feet with a 40-pound pack and see how you feel about things.

Next up, you have to pick your trip. By now, most huts have filled up for the weekend slots. But you can still poach some weekday reservations. And at just $30 a pop, it's probably Colorado's best snow deal ever.

The cabins range from a bare-basic yurt to classy affairs complete with pot belly stoves, kitchen wares and cushy mattresses. You'll need to bring along a sleeping bag, food and emergency gear, plus plenty of clothing layers.

No matter where you end up -- be it the Polar Star Inn or Uncle Bud's -- the adventure of cruising through the snow-clogged wilderness without another soul in sight is a memory that'll last forever.

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