Sweating and laughing, our line of 14 ski-touring ladies skinned through knee-deep February powder en route to the Sisters Cabin on Baldy Mountain, just outside of Breckenridge. A few selfie stops and nips of whiskey later, the forest opened before us, revealing our snowy hut away from home. Inside, we peeled off wet layers, called bunk dibs, and sparked a warming wood stove fire—before laying out all of the charcuterie, cheeses, and happy-hour accoutrements we’d strategically packed.

Sure, lightweight, calorie-dense MREs may be backcountry hut-trippers’ rations of choice, but as a group of foodies escaping our daily grinds (and kids and spouses), we’d carefully planned our expedition to mix adventure and gourmet pleasure. A shared Google spreadsheet that detailed who was responsible for which meals and listed ingredients, down to the spices, helped us minimize the weight we each had to carry. Luckily, the now year-old Sisters hut has a stocked kitchen with propane burners, and our trek was just 3.8 miles each way (though when you’re lugging clothing, gear, food, and booze, every uphill mile can feel like 10).

After post-happy-hour powder laps and a snowman-building session, the dinner team heated high-protein chickpea pasta with prechopped veggies, flattened bags of frozen homemade red sauce, and cooked, preseasoned garlic-herb chicken; others poured red wine from unboxed bladders and pulled out plastic flasks of spiced rum for spiking packet cocoa and cider. Stories of engagements and job promotions floated between the kitchen and living areas as we cooked and sipped, along with recommendations on the best cabin slippers and the lightest alpine touring boots.

We passed the pasta around the hut’s table, savoring the hot meal and the company. Bars of dark chocolate and ice cream (made from mixing snow with condensed milk and frozen berries) were divine treats, paired with rounds of Yahtzee. The next morning, early risers woke late-nighters with kitchen bustle: the sizzle of precracked eggs sliding from Nalgene bottles into hot skillets; the crinkle of crisped bacon, shredded cheese, and diced peppers and onions being shaken from plastic bags into the eggs; the aromas from pour-over chai and coffee pouches (REI carries an excellent selection). After breakfast, we packed up and skinned out of the woods, satiated and smiling.

Here’s the thing about hut-tripping: The slog in is a pride-making group voyage, while chopping wood for a fire and boiling snow for drinking and washing leads to camaraderie powered by elbow grease. But when the chores are done and friends are gathered in the warm glow of a hut in an isolated gulch on a dark winter night, food is the universal thread—the (literally) fulfilling reward for a backcountry trip well executed. From $700 per night for the whole cabin; book six months to a year in advance at summithuts.org

No-Bake Energy Bites

Makes about 20
These easy, ball-shaped snacks are perfect fuel for the hike in and out.

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
₂⁄₃ cup toasted, finely shredded unsweetened coconut
½ cup ground flax or chia seeds
½ cup dark
chocolate chips
½ cup almond
(or any nut or seed) butter
₁⁄₃ cup honey

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Roll the mixture into bite-size balls. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

This article was originally published in 5280 February 2020.
Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake is a freelance writer and children's book author living in Breckenridge. When she's not writing about food and mountain adventures, she can be found on the river with her son, pug and husband.