Opus Hut — Full Service Alpine Lodging in Colorado


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | December 26, 2016      
Across valley from Opus, alpine ridges loft above timberline powder terrain.

Across valley from Opus, alpine ridges loft above timberline powder terrain. I caught this photo of the hut keepers as they squeezed in their own ski tour before kitchen duties. Click images to enlarge.

Your first view of Opus from the access trail.

Your first view of Opus from the access trail. All use is human powered.

Colorado has quite a few backcountry recreation huts now, after a somewhat furious three decades of development. But we’re still an embryo compared to, for example, the Alps, where the number of “huts” is said to number in excess of 3,000 — with a goodly number providing “full board” meal service.

Nothing wrong with the no-frills cabins such as those of our 10th Mountain Hut Association, but over the years I’ve wearied — you can only shlepp so much box wine. Yeah, Austria and Switzerland spoiled me, where we’ve toured hundreds of days with nothing but a credit card, thermos of sweet tea and a half loaded 30 liter backpack.

While there is presently no obvious trend to full service huts in Colorado, privately owned Opus hut in the San Juan mountains seeks to break the mold. Completed in 2010, Opus is perched at 11,600 on a mountainside overlooking all manner of ski terrain (and hiking in summer). From meadow skipping to peak descents, all is available.

Interior and exterior finish is  'Colorado mining town.'

Interior and exterior finish is ‘Colorado mining town.’ I like our state heritage.

Owner Bob Kingsley built the structure using timber frame components from a dairy farm. From the mining era hints on the exterior (oarcart track railings)to the cozy bunkrooms, you’ll delight in this solid feeling hostel. Bob has the full off-grid thing rocking, from composting toilets to solar panels. Even his water is low-impact, it’s sourced from roof drainage. No enviro-guilt here. Speaking of which, in case you’re planning a trip, no wifi at Opus, but you can get 3G data on the Verizon system if you hunt around for a good signal (hint, top floor east bunkroom).

Dining room, with kitchen  to left. Everything is well organized.

Dining room, with kitchen to left. Everything is well organized.

North side guest entrance.

North side guest entrance.

Opus really is perched on a mountainside, again reminding me of  European huts in bold locations.

Opus really is perched on a mountainside, again reminding me of European huts in bold locations. All to many of our Colorado huts are located too low, in forested areas with little to no views.

I didn’t see any obvious downsides. Opus is clean and well organized. Little things like having decks shoveled off and usable are appreciated (especially by those of us with backs that don’t move snow all that well). Bear in mind that here in Colorado, while most of our huts are subsidized by not-for-profit operations, tradition breaking efforts such as Opus have to support themselves so they may not be as budget friendly as, for example, the Swiss Alpine Club subsidized huts when you have a club membership. We’d like to see that change — we’ve dreamed for years of heavily funded outfits such as 10th Mountain Huts implementing at least one or two full service operations. Could still happen. Keep your eyes open.

Meanwhile, if you consider the cost of buying your own hut food and the effort of cooking for a group, combined with per-person non-profit hut prices that are still surprisingly steep, Opus prices are amazingly reasonable. An Opus dorm bed AND MEALS is only a few dollars more than you’d spend on a 10th Mountain Hut! I won’t quote any prices here, contact Opus for details (link below). Glitch in this is you can’t bring your own alcoholic beverages, so you’ll need to purchase at the hut. The booze prices are reasonable and you don’t want to be drinking like a fish at 11,600 feet, so in my view not a big deal.

I liked the architectural feel of the moderately sized 1,800 square foot Opus. Dining room is snugged up to the kitchen, where a wood heated cookstove doubles as a glass fronted wood fire. That way the staff can interact with guests. What with owner Kingsley being one of North America’s more accomplished ski mountaineers, you might just want to get into a chat with him while he’s whipping up his signature shepard’s pie (e.g., University Peak, one of the worldwide best first descents of the past 20 years).

Terrain varies from low angled tree runs to the alpine.

Terrain varies from low angled tree runs to the alpine.

Logistics: Reservations required. The hut approach routes both pass through avalanche terrain, with the east side route from the Red Mountain Pass road being more manageable but still not recommended during higher hazard ratings (credit is given if you cancel a trip due to avalanche danger). Guides are recommended, available from Telluride Mountain Guides. East approach is about 3 miles with 2,000 vertical foot gain. Unless you’re trail breaking it’s a fairly mellow slog, though you have to have your wits about you when passing below a number of avalanche paths. Hazard exposure is in the nature of mere minutes unless you have lunch in the wrong spot, so your actual risk level is probably better than during the drive over Red Mountain Pass (no guard rails!). Nonetheless, this is what I’d call “adult” terrain. Once at the Opus everything is taken care of. Most sleeping arrangements are communal, while there appeared to be one or two rooms that could double as a honeymoon suit. Food is excellent, with full libations available as well (though tread lightly, you’re at 11,600 feet elevation.) Details at the Opus website.



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Comments

9 Responses to “Opus Hut — Full Service Alpine Lodging in Colorado”

  1. atfred December 26th, 2016 11:51 am

    Hey Lou, do you have to buy your own water, like at the Swiss huts (smile)?

  2. Lou2 December 26th, 2016 12:34 pm

    No buying water but the Opus website mentions not to waste it.

  3. RDE December 26th, 2016 2:12 pm

    Hi Lou,
    FYI, I’m getting “invalid security certificate” messages blocking access. Tested your site on Firefox. Opera, and Chrome— same result on all of the browsers.
    Richard

  4. Lou Dawson 2 December 26th, 2016 3:43 pm

    Thanks RDE, I’ll look into it. Such a joke, really means nothing on my kind of website, just another hoop to jump through.

    It checks out fine:

    https://www.sslshopper.com/ssl-checker.html#hostname=www.wildsnow.com

    Try playing around with exactly what URL you are browsing to. www or no www, https prefix, etc.

    I’ll contact my server company.

    Thanks, Lou

  5. Lou Dawson 2 December 26th, 2016 4:02 pm

    I just spoke with server company, they said everything is set up correctly. Please check your browser settings and which exact URL you are trying to use.

    Also, you might be getting a mixed content error, as sometimes our banner ad URLs are not HTTPS and cause a glitch.

    Again, such a lame deal but Goggle is god and they want all sites to be HTTPS. So I bow down.

    ‘best, Lou

  6. Wes December 26th, 2016 5:49 pm

    There was an excellent article in the Silverton Standard last week regarding a rescue by Bob Kingsley and several people staying at the Opus hut. Apparently two skiers attempted to ski into the hut in the middle of the big storm a week and a half ago and ended up spending the night out after not making it to the hut. The next day one of them made it back to 550 and called for help, but the sheriff decided against allowing SAR personel to attempt to rescue the stranded skier due to high avalanche danger on the route. They were able to contact Bob Kingsley at the hut, however, who organized a rescue group that found the skier and took him back to the hut. The next day he was flown out by flight for life. The full story is at

    http://www.silvertonstandard.com/news.php?id=933

  7. Lou Dawson 2 December 26th, 2016 6:07 pm

    It sounds like Kingsley saved that guy’s life! That’s my kind of hut keeper!

  8. Chet Roe December 27th, 2016 10:29 am

    Two years ago was there….good terrain and nice hut, though a little cramped sleeping….hutkeepers were good folks….my complaint was the food was more vegetarian/Hippy…not a lot, not great and overall not a good dollar value in my opinion! Then the option to bring your own food and cook downstairs was available….in retrospect sure should have done that then….sounds like your food experience was better now

  9. Zorba December 27th, 2016 7:56 pm

    Well that’s going on the list. I’ve paid more for grungy city hostels in Europe!





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