Colorado’s San Juan Mountains are known for their deep snowpack, complex terrain, solitude, splendor, and challenge. In a winter when travel is restricted, and snowfall has been sparse, the San Juans are more empty of crowds and buried under a blanket of carvable white fluff. That potential has created a lot of excitement for San Juan Mountain Guides (SJMG) new Interconnect backcountry ski trip. Scaling 13,000-foot passes and carving creamy turns down steep slopes, the tour pauses at full-service huts and lodges along the way for gourmet homestyle meals—and the serenity that only a high camp can provide.
This five-day, four-night Colorado hut-to-hut high traverse winds through a zone often compared to the Alps, earning it a label as America’s answer to legendary multi-day “Haute Route” from the Chamonix valley to Zermatt. The guided, catered trip is also full-service. Skiers need only carry a daypack—other gear is shuttled between lodges while you sample the goods. So at the end of your ski day, whether you’ve run out of light or your legs call it quits, your biggest concern will be whether you step into a hot shower, warm up with homemade soup, or toast to a great day in the mountains first.
There are two versions of SJMG’s Interconnect. On the Interconnect 121, skiers overnight at three backcountry lodges—Ophir Pass Ultimate Ski Hut (OPUS) Red Mountain Alpine Lodge (RMAL), and Mount Hayden Backcountry Lodge (MHBL). On the Interconnect 22, skiers spend two nights each at RMAL and MHBL.
The tour begins in the historic mining town of Silverton. After ascending to sunny, cozy OPUS Hut on a gentle track with panoramic views, skiers have a half-day to explore Opus’ expansive backyard before dinner is served. The high-alpine backcountry hut perches on the southern slopes of 13,666-foot Lookout Peak, and surrounded by awesome tree runs, wide-open bowls, and steep, craggy faces.
Day 2, skiers climb over a breathtaking 13,000′ col before carving and cavorting to Columbine Lake for an inspiring high-alpine traverse through upper Porphyry and Mineral Basins. Skirting the shoulder of Trico Peak (13,321′), where San Juan, San Miguel, and Ouray counties intersect, the descent to Red Mountain Alpine Lodge is as spicy or serene as mood and weather dictate.
RMAL is a striking timber-frame structure with a cathedral ceiling, floor-to-ceiling windows, massive exposed beams, and a cozy wood stove. For two nights, the relaxed luxury of the spacious lodge welcomes you back from objectives that are as ambitious or enjoyable as the group desires. From Red Mountain Pass, where the lodge sits, the options are endless and include sky-scraping high points like Champion Bowl or Hollywood on Red #3. After the second night of decadent comfort and entertaining tales of the tenure’s mining town history, the tour ascends Senator Beck Basin toward historic Imogene Basin over another 13,000′ col. After passing Telluride Peak (13,509′), skiers drop down to Hayden Backcountry Lodge, a fully renovated historic log cabin lodge with a cedar wood-fired hot tub. Soak under the sprawling Milky Way after a chef-prepared gourmet feast. The final morning ski tour carves the storied Camp Bird Corridor, the historic home of many of the region’s silver mines in the shadow of Mount Sneffels and Yankee Boy Basin. A shuttle returns guests to Ouray.
The Interconnect 22 also connects Silverton and Ouray. Guests on the Interconnect 22 spend two nights each at Red Mountain Alpine Lodge and Mount Hayden Backcountry Lodge.
Both Interconnect hut trips are five days and four nights, with all meals and lodging included, and IFMGA/AMGA guiding by one of the most respected guide services in the U.S., with some of the most accomplished and personable staff. The guide to skier ratio is 1:4.
Book now. Each Interconnect will run on with limited departures in spring 2021. The cost is $1,995 per person. Due to COVID-19, group size is limited to eight people, unless you book a private group. Contact San Juan Mountain Guides for details, or book online at mtnguide.net.