Francie’s Cabin renovations to continue this summer
The most popular backcountry hut in Colorado will undergo the second phase of its remodel this summer. Francie’s Cabin, located in the Crystal Basin 3 miles south of Breckenridge, was built in 1994 and has seen extensive use over the years from its roughly 75,000 lifetime guests. This means that many of the hut’s original elements are no longer viable, and significant renovations and upgrades are required.
“It’s pretty staggering when you start to think about it,” said Brandon Bailey, who serves on the Summit Huts’ advisory board. “That’s an entire football stadium that has gone through there.”
The nonprofit Summit Huts Association manages it as well as Janet’s Cabin, Ken’s Cabin, Section House and Sisters Cabin. Last year, the organization replaced the worn-out plywood floors in the bedrooms upstairs and in the hutmaster quarters with hickory hardwood.
Starting June 1, weather permitting, the Summit Huts will work on redesigning the kitchen, adding new flooring, making the lighting energy efficient and improving the snowmelt system so it can handle the 20 guests each winter night — in addition to less-competitive summer use — for years to come.
According to the association, the kitchen will be expanded with an open floor plan and open shelving to better accommodate multiple groups as they cook and prepare food. The original kitchen tile countertops will be replaced with stainless steel surfaces that are sanitary, low maintenance and easier to clean. Lastly, sinks and utensils will be upgraded as energy-efficient appliances like countertop burners are installed to use the limited gas supply effectively.
Bailey said the expanded kitchen will shrink a bedroom on the ground floor, but capacity will remain the same, as two beds will be moved upstairs into the reading room.
On the subject of gas, a new, propane snowmelt stove similar to the system at Sisters will increase water capacity while reducing firewood use. The wood-burning stove will still be there, but Bailey said its snow melting would be minimized, increasing longevity of the flooring since there will be less water pooling and damage from dragging in snow buckets.
The flooring in the common areas — currently old pine floors that were never meant for the cabin’s popularity — will become the same hickory that was installed upstairs. This adds durability and warmth, and makes it easier to clean. Additionally, long-lasting tile flooring will be placed at both entries, and boot storage will be constructed for the rear entryway.
Come night, guests will notice the changes made to the hut’s lighting. New LED fixtures that reduce the load on the upgraded solar battery system will go throughout the cabin. The lights will have sensors and switches on timers to be energy efficient, too.
Bailey is the son of Frances Lockwood Bailey, the namesake of the cabin. She was the daughter of a 10th Mountain Division ski trooper who moved to Breckenridge in the 1970s. His mom died in a plane crash in 1989, but he survived.
Bailey lives in Boulder as a marketing consultant, but he’s been making annual trips to the cabin for about a decade. He has two daughters of his own — Blair, 2, and Brooke, 6 months — who he has taken on trips to the hut as well. Despite the logistical challenges, Bailey said building and preserving the huts for the next generation is important to him.
“From a personal standpoint, I want Francie’s Cabin to be a special place for my kids and their kids and friends for another 20 years,” Bailey said.
Summit Huts is fundraising a total of $200,000 for the project and Bailey, who is leading the campaign, said they are over 75% of the way there. Donations to the remodel project can be made at SummitHuts.org. Any excess funds upon completion will be put toward the Francie’s Cabin Capital Endowment Fund, which will support future capital improvements not related to annual operations.
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