Head for the Huts

With the bulk of ski season in the rearview, first-round RIMBY Scholarship winner Nicole Jorgenson gathered up a solid crew and took to the mountains for one last Snow Season adventure in Colorado's San Juans. We caught up with Nicole on her return to ask her some questions about the trip.

First things first, for those who don't know you, what's your deal?

During the winter I ski and practice/teach yoga as much as possible and during the warm months I ride and race my bikes (mountain, road, and cyclocross) as much as possible. I’m happiest when I spend a lot of time outside, and I love pushing my limits physically in the outdoors. Aside from being outside, I love travelling and speaking other languages – I can’t stay in one place for too long!

What's your favorite part of the Snow Dream Season? How do you make the most of it?

I am obsessed with winter, which is ironic due to my inability to tolerate cold. I can’t think of anything that makes me happier than being out in the snowy mountains – whether under blue skies or in the midst of a good storm. There is something peaceful and calming about snow falling around me, it’s so incredibly quiet. These past few years, and especially this winter, I’ve gotten very into backcountry skiing. I’ve met some incredible people who have showed me that its possible to live a lifestyle that gets you into the mountains often, and I’m now determined to create that same lifestyle for myself. Most of all, I think the best part about the season is the long days spent in the backcountry making joint decisions with your ski partners, seeing the smiles of raw joy after skiing that perfect blower pow, and the multi-day hut trips that involve a lot of laughs, food and reflecting on the day. There really is no purer way to connect with another individual.

Give us a brief timeline for the trip. Where did you go and when?

7 of us went to Burn Hut in the San Juan Mountains just outside of Ridgway, CO. We left the trailhead Thursday morning, skinned 5.5 miles to the hut. For the next 2 days and 3 nights we toured and skied around the hut, chilled in hammocks by the fire outside and cooked lots of delicious food.

Multiple days in a hut can get a little stuffy sometimes. How did you keep the crew entertained and psyched?

The thing about huts is there are always tasks to be done. Snow constantly needs to be melted and boiled for water (which is a pretty time consuming process), the fire needs to be stoked, wood needs to be split for kindling, and food almost always needs preparing. Delegating these tasks usually keeps everyone busy and there are always challenges that make things more exciting whether that’s figuring out how to cook all your food using minimal pots and burners or maintaining that perfect temperature inside the hut. Aside from that, we had no problem keeping ourselves entertained by making big bonfires outside, taking star trail photos and hanging out with the hut pup, Oscar.

Describe the most delicious meal you whipped up in your hut.

Breakfast burritos! A delicious scramble of eggs, chorizo, veggies, and cheese wrapped up in a tortilla warmed on the stove-top, with bacon of course.

Multiday trips rarely go as smoothly as planned. What went wrong?

It was A LOT warmer than anticipated. On the skin in, there were several sections of dirt where snow had already melted so we had to take off our skis multiple times and walk. Luckily, we gained some elevation on the way to the hut and the surrounding area still had a good base. The recent warmth, however, had really affected the snowpack causing it to be crusty on all aspects – this does not make for great skiing conditions! We were still able to take a beautiful tour with some pristine views of the San Juan Mountains and spent a little more time hanging out at the hut mastering the perfect Hot Toddy recipe!

What's something every newbie hut-tripper should know before embarking into the backcountry?

Have some kind of knowledge base. At the least, I think anyone going into the backcountry should have taken an AVY 1 course, but even that information only scratches the surface of snow science and decision making. Go with someone more knowledgeable than you whenever possible and always be receptive to learning.

What piece of gear would you consider absolutely indispensable for hut-tripping?

Most definitely the Performance Crew. This layer has literally become one of my staples; I think I’ve maybe skied one day of the whole season without it, and I regretted it. I wear a base layer under the crew and it becomes the perfect mid-weight layer for ski touring. It is a great layer for skinning – it regulates temperature and wicks moisture exceptionally, is heavy enough to hold up in weather, and the thumbholes are perfect for when I’m skinning without gloves but need a bit more warmth.

Best part about snow, worst part about snow. Go!

It’s gorgeous and provides so much fun!! But it’s also terrifying. Snow and weather are such volatile variables and it’s so important to be knowledgeable and stay up-to-date on weather and snow patterns. I think way too many people go into the backcountry with this invincible attitude that “it won’t happen to them”, but the reality is avalanche fatalities have happened to even the most experienced skiers.

Give us a six word meditation on the trip.

Sun, friends, Oscar-the-pup, Hot Toddies, feasts, hut life. (technically too many words, but we will let it slide just this once since all of these things are awesome)

 

Field Agent Nicole Jorgenson does a ton of cool stuff. Don't believe us? Check out her instagram. For more information on how to become a Mountain Standard Field Agent, click here.

What the heck is a RIMBY Scholarship?
Mountain Standard is stoked to fund a handful of badass Field Agents on dream excursions across the country. Each season, agents can apply for a RIMBY Scholarship to cover some of the gear costs for their proposed trips. Gregg Boydston's Southwestern trek is just one of the trips we helped fund this season. For more information on how to become a Mountain Standard Field Agent, click here
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