Getting there: From Los Angeles, fly to Denver, then drive about 18 miles west of Vail to West Lake Creek trail head and a parking spot in the woods. From there it’s a seven-mile ski to Polar Star Inn.
Reservations at the huts are required and can be made by calling (303) 925-5775 or writing: 10th Mountain Trail Assn., 1280 Ute Ave., Aspen, Colo. 81611. Prices: $20-$27 per person per night.
Book early. Prime winter weekends fill fast. 10th Mountain books reservations for its own nine huts, plus six huts in the Braun Hut System and six other private and regional huts in the Vail, Aspen and Crested Butte area (21 huts total).
Some trails are easy, some difficult. Make sure the trip is within your capabilities. Someone in the group should know how to use a compass and read a topographic map.
When reservations are made, 10th Mountain will send maps. Also order the book “Colorado 10th Mountain Trails” by Louis Dawson, which contains detailed maps, photos, route descriptions, equipment checklists and other vital information.
Guides: Inexperienced back-country skiers should probably hire a professional guide. Call Paragon Guides at (303) 949-4272, Elk Mountain Guides at (303) 927-9377 or Aspen Alpine Guides at (303) 920-8525.
Skis: Use back-country touring skis, which can be rented from various stores in Vail, including the Vail Nordic Center at Vail Golf Course.
Call (303) 479-2261 (about $18 per day for skis, boots, poles). Alpine skis are good only for downhill skiing, while cross-country skis are too flexible.