Hut Report: Red Mountain Alpine Lodge in Colorado’s San Juans
In the realm of North American huts, Red Mountain Alpine Lodge (RMAL) might classify more as a mountain palace. And we’re all for it. Cathedral ceilings, warm wood interiors, cozy couches, private rooms, and loft bunks make this spot on top of Red Mountain Pass—located between Ouray and Silverton on Highway 550—a far cry from the dirtbaggery many of us associate with hut trips.
The custom-built timber-frame lodge sits at 11,000 feet, with floor-to-ceiling windows that stare right at Red Mountain No. 3 (less than 2,000 feet above the hut). Low-angle tree skiing flanks the lodge on all sides, and proximity to the highway makes it easy to bounce over to the other side of the pass to hunt for soft snow on pretty much any aspect as conditions change. With only a short 300-yard walk from the parking lot, you also don’t have to worry about packing all your gear into a backpack.
The San Juans have a notoriously touchy midwinter snowpack, so while the windswept high peaks surrounding the lodge make for a striking backdrop, the steep couloirs and tall summits are often best saved for a spring trip. Since the lodge is already so high in the alpine, when the weather permits, it can be the perfect jumping off point for ridge traverses and bigger linkups.
RMAL is set up in a similar vein to the style of European mountain huts: Book a spot in the hut and trust you will be well fed and watered the entire time. This isn’t a DIY kitchen where you trade off cobbling together backcountry meals for a crowd. All stays include a seasonal home-cooked dinner, après afternoon soup and apps, a hearty breakfast, and packed trail lunch. Local beers on tap as well as a collection of wines and spirits are a pretty great way to cap off a long ski day. Cozy up by the wood stove with a good book or gather around the long dining table for a game of cards; you could spend all week here and never leave the hut. Hot showers, too. To be honest, it’s the only hut trip I’ve been on where I left cleaner than I arrived and gained some weight in the process.
Beware, though, after experiencing this ultimate hut luxury, it’s definitely hard to go back to hauling all your own junk into a hut to fend for yourself in the wilderness.
RMAL sleeps up to 20 people, with spots available in a private room or loft space. Prices start at $259 per person (with four people in a private room), or you can book out the entire lodge for $5,380, which works out to be $269 per person for 20 people. The lodge is situated at the base of Red Mountain No. 3, right off Highway 550 at the base of Red Mountain Pass. Closest airports are Montrose, 1 hour away, Durango, 1.5 hours away, or Grand Junction, 2.25 hours away. Under the same ownership as San Juan Mountain Guides, you can hire a guide for your trip (recommended for the best experience), or just book the catered stay and explore on your own.