Construction at 11,000 feet is a pain.
But veteran mountain guide Nate Disser thinks it’ll be worth the hassle when skiers discover his hut on the top of Red Mountain Pass between Ouray and Silverton.
After 10 minutes of skinning from the turnoff on Highway 550, skiers will arrive at the new Red Mountain Alpine Lodge, a 2,500-square foot, two-story lodge surrounded by endless backcountry terrain.
“We’re in the final stages of doing finishes and trim work, and hanging doors and installing cabinets,” Disser said. The four-season lodge will open next month.
Disser moved to Colorado in 2002, and has been guiding backcountry ski and climbing trips for 15 years through his Ouray-based San Juan Mountain Guides. As his business grew, Disser’s customers started asking about staying in backcountry huts.
“Hut trips and skiing are so synonymous,” he said. “They got so popular, you had to reserve these huts a year in advance. Oftentimes, you would get shut out for preferred days and weekends.”
Disser connected with one of his repeat customers, Mark Iuppenlatz, who had started buying land near Red Mountain Pass. Four years ago, the friends started working together on the project, and now collectively own 300 acres of land on the pass. After securing permits from Ouray County, the lodge broke ground in May.
“Building at 11,000 feet is costly because of the challenge of getting materials and supplies, and workers and subcontractors,” Disser said. “It’s been a significant investment on our part … it’s one we’re willing to make because we believe in the future of human-powered recreation in this area.”
The two-story hut sleeps 18 to 20 people, with private room or loft options. Nightly rates range from $134 per person to $509 per room.
“There are a lot of different huts out there,” Disser said. “Many of them are primitive, or don’t offer the types of ease and logistics that allow you to focus on skiing or being in the backcountry.”
Red Mountain Alpine Lodge is far from primitive. Amenities include radiant in-floor heating, hot running water, flushing toilets, a sauna and WiFi. Disser has hired two people to live at the lodge and take care of guests, plus a chef and caterer who will cook breakfast and dinner, which are included, for guests.
Disser said the lodge’s request for a liquor license is pending with Ouray County, but he expects to be able to serve beer, wine and spirits at the hut.
Terrain surrounding the lodge includes tree glades, high alpine peaks and bowls, and a variety of steepness for all skier types.
“There is literally a lifetime’s opportunity of skiing that you can do from the lodge,” he said.
Other nearby huts include the Opus Hut and the five huts in the San Juan Hut Systems. Disser wants to eventually offer a hut-to-hut traverse trips to his guests.