Summit Huts explores summer use for Janet’s | SummitDaily.com
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Summit Huts explores summer use for Janet’s

Summit Daily News/Special to the Daily
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SUMMIT COUNTY – A cabin that serves as a popular getaway for backcountry skiers during the winter months could soon become a destination for summertime backpackers and hikers.The Summit Huts Association filed an application with the U.S. Forest Service to open Janet’s Cabin for approximately six weeks between July and September.”We think that Janet’s provides a unique opportunity for a summertime hut experience in that there is no motor vehicle access to it. Just about all the other huts, you can drive your SUV to at least fairly close to the hut,” said Summit Huts operations manager Mike Zobbe.The 20-person cabin sits in Guller Gulch between Copper Mountain and Vail Pass, and is about 200 yards off the Colorado Trail. It’s currently open from Thanksgiving through the first week of May. The Forest Service sent out a scoping notice in the fall to gather feedback on the proposal, and an equal number of supporting and opposing comments came back, said Forest Service snow ranger Shelly Grail. One of the concerns involved the area’s elk habitat, Grail said.The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) has been working with Summit Huts and the Forest Service to start the summer hut season outside the timeframe for elk calving, said DOW northwest region spokesperson Randy Hampton.

The second Friday in July is the earliest the DOW would allow overnight visitors in the area, he said.”May and June are kind of those critical calving periods, so the less disturbance you get on that, the better,” Hampton said.When Summit Huts applied for the original permit for Janet’s Cabin in 1988, the DOW had more concerns about the impact on elk habitat, but the development of the Colorado Trail between then and now has added more uses and people to the area, Hampton said.The DOW is also recommending that trash and food be kept inside bear-proof containers and that educational signs about recreating in bear habitat are posted in the area, Hampton said.Zobbe said he is on board with educational efforts.”What we want to do is work closely with wildlife agencies to educate folks on how to coexist with wildlife and how to recreate in ways that have minimal impacts on wildlife,” Zobbe said, adding that he would be interested in having graduate students come up to the hut in the future to conduct research on the topic.Another hurdle Summit Huts will need to pass is the question of water.

During the winter, visitors melt snow for drinking and cooking water, but Zobbe said he is still working on a solution for a water supply in the summer.He hopes to find a way to access water from a creek that flows about 75 feet away from the cabin without impacting the vegetation along the streambank.One option being discussed is to create a small scale diversion that would feed water up from the stream into a cistern outside the cabin, Zobbe said.Zobbe has applied for a permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to run the system. Tony Curtis from the Corps’ Frisco regulatory office said he expects to make a decision on the permit in the next couple weeks.”For what he wants to do, (the approval procedure is) relatively straightforward. It’s not that difficult a process,” Curtis said.But Zobbe may need to obtain a water right through the state, which could take more time, Curtis added.The Dillon District office will prepare its recommendation this spring on the proposal, which will go to White River National Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson for the final decision.



If the extension is approved, Zobbe said the operation will start off small with fewer beds open than those available during the winter, just to gauge interest.”It might be a bust, I don’t know, or it might be really popular,” Zobbe said.The extra six weeks of operations won’t cause much more work for Summit Huts because the organization already pays for a helicopter to fly in supplies once a year, and can simply add an extra load, Zobbe said. Of its four huts, the Summit Huts currently offers only Francie’s Cabin as an option for summertime use. Francie’s sits in the Crystal Lake drainage south of Breckenridge.The Section House, which is located on Boreas Pass, is run by the Forest Service during the summer as a historic interpretive site and is not open for overnight reservations.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at nformosa@summitdaily.com.


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