Aspen's High Design Backcountry Ski Huts

By Tess Strokes | February 12, 2019 | Lifestyle

The legendary backcountry ski huts around Aspen are the direct descendants of a Bauhaus legacy.

ski-hut.jpgOpa’s Taylor Hut is the newest addition to Aspen’s Braun Hut system.

Atop Smuggler Mountain, two cabins sit honoring the late Aspen architect Fritz Benedict and his wife, Fabi, the spiritual parents of the 10th Mountain Division Hut system. Benedict, along with a small group of Aspenites, modeled the Colorado hut system after a century-old version in New Hampshire and the huts of the Alps. Trained by renowned Bauhaus architect and artist Herbert Bayer, Benedict blended nature and architecture, especially within the 10th Mountain system. The newest Benedict Huts were designed by Aspen architect Al Beyer in the late ‘90s.

In addition to the 10th Mountain huts, Aspen’s own Braun Hut system began more than 30 years ago with a few rustic alpine shelters built to service backcountry skiing. Each hut has been remodeled since, (think: south-facing decks, expansive views, electric lights and solar panels), all designed by the same Beyer.

In the vein of Bauhaus, function dictates hut design. “Just as cabin life is a stripped-down version of life, everything in a hut needs to be elemental and functional,” says Beyer. His firm designed the newest hut in the Braun system, Opa’s Taylor, a stunning structure anchored in granite at almost 12,000 feet, just out of view from Taylor Pass. While the Forest Service required the simple shed roof, the aesthetic, with its interesting lines, overhands and thick wooden beams that somehow project a lightness, is as inspiring as the views.

“Cabin allure is universally regarded… whether it’s a cottage on the lake, a hut on a mountain, a hunting cabin or a cabana on the beach, there is something resonant for folks in a small efficient space connected to a bigger outdoor environment that’s usually shared with friends or family,” says Beyer. “For architects, the allure of a small, hut-scaled place is the challenge to make it really work—not just make it bigger, for example—and the freedom of space to allow the design to interact with the landscape.”

Photography by: PHOTO BY DEVIN POOL