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July 29, 2014
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Weber Hut near Breckenridge almost through Forest Service approval process

A fifth hut in the Summit Hut Association’s collection of rustic cabins for backcountry skiers is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The U.S. Forest Service announced Monday, July 28, its release of the draft decision notice for the environmental assessment of the Weber Hut, which the association’s executive director Mike Zobbe said has been almost eight years in the making.

The hut is so named because it will be in Weber Gulch, on the north aspect of Bald Mountain, at roughly 11,500 feet. The hut will join the association’s four other huts: Section House and Ken’s Cabin along Boreas Pass, Janet’s Cabin near Copper Mountain (opened in 1991) and Francie’s Cabin south of Breckenridge (opened in 1995).

Zobbe said a hut in the Weber Gulch area was part of the original master plan for the Summit Huts Association, developed with the Forest Service through a public community vision process in the late 1980s.

The association narrowed potential sites for the hut from 23 to five to one, he said, and changed many aspects of the proposal based on input from residents, the town of Breckenridge and Summit County.

“The access route has gone through maybe half a dozen different versions,” he said, and though the environmental assessment has been prepared for a hut that sleeps 16 people, the hut will actually be built with a capacity of 14.

“We wanted to be careful of our footprint,” said Jack Wolfe, a former board president for the association who has worked with the Forest Service throughout the process.

Though some nearby residents wanted the hut to be much smaller, he said, the association couldn’t downsize it further because of financial sustainability concerns. “It still costs us the same about to maintain the hut.”

The hut’s environmental assessment analyzes all kinds of impacts to the surrounding environment and addresses public concerns that centered on wildlife issues — specifically habitat for Canada lynx, pine martens and elk ­— and off-site parking for the hut’s users.

“We’ve always taken the attitude that the hut’s better because of the comments we’ve been getting,” Wolfe said.

At the association’s other huts, Zobbe said, demand outstrips supply, and folks looking to book a night on a weekend or during a popular holiday must contend with a lottery system.

Once the environmental assessment is finished, the association will raise funds, hire an architect, design the hut and its access routes, then start construction.

Weber will incorporate what has worked at the other huts, with a comfortable, energy-efficient layout, Zobbe said. The designs and construction process must be approved by the Forest Service.

“We’re happy to be in the position we’re in right now, but we’re not kidding ourselves,” Wolfe said. “We’re a long way from the finish line.”

Shelly Grail Braudis, snow ranger with the Dillon Ranger District, said a 45-day objection period to the project’s draft decision notice will begin Wednesday, July 30 and end Sept. 13. People who submitted written comments on the environmental assessment during its comment period (Aug. 12 to Sept. 11, 2013) may file objections.

If the document receives no objections, White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams will sign off on the project. If needed, Forest Service officials will meet with any parties who file objections and try to come up with resolutions.

To view the environmental assessment, go the White River National Forest website (fs.usda.gov/whiteriver), navigate to Land & Resources Management on the left, click Projects and then scroll down to the Summit Huts project.

For more information about this project or the Forest Service environmental assessment process, contact Shelly Grail Braudis with the Dillon Ranger District, at (970) 262-3484 or sgrail@fs.fed.us.


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The Summit Daily Updated Jul 29, 2014 09:10PM Published Jul 30, 2014 01:11PM Copyright 2014 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.