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Sisters Act

For the first time in two decades, a backcountry cabin has opened on public lands outside of Breckenridge, Colo.

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Sisters Cabin, Breckenridge, Colorado
Located just five miles east of the town of Breckenridge, the new Sisters Cabin was completed in 2018.Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

As we tour up the skin track after sunset, the slush turns to ice. The Colorado snowpack had been boisterous all season around Breckenridge in particular, including a historic avalanche cycle about a month before the trip. But we arrived in Summit County with the first melt-freeze cycle of the spring, and conditions were prime to get up into the high country.

It doesn’t take long, however, for our veteran crew to feel unnerved by the fact that much of the wandering 3.7-mile-long access trail seems to go down almost as much as it goes up. At one point, after negotiating a very wide switchback, the trail drops visibly lower than the path preceding it. Looking down at my friend Jessi, who’s leading the pack, we decide to find a more direct route to the new Sisters Cabin.  

Located just five miles east of the town of Breckenridge, the new Sisters Cabin was completed in 2018. Perched on the northern shoulder of Bald Mountain at 11,445 feet above sea level—and just below tree line—the cabin is in a prime location for when the snowpack starts to stabilize in the spring. And if conditions don’t allow safe alpine travel, there are tree runs that descend 1,300 vertical feet back to the French Gulch trailhead, where the tour starts. 

Jon Jay skiing Bald Mountain near Breckenridge, Colo.
The author descends Bald Mountain in Colorado’s Summit County.Photo courtesy of Keri Bascetta

We arrive at the cabin in the dark, but there is enough light to make out that the modern cabin could be part of a new residential development in Frisco or Dillon. There is solar-generated electricity, a wood-burning sauna, and even cell service. Our crew is definitely not big enough to fill the cabin’s 14 beds, so it was going to be a surprise to see who else was sharing the cabin in the morning. We unwind from the ski tour by playing Yahtzee and sipping whiskey by the fireplace, taking note of the ADA-accessible bedroom and toilet (which explains the wide and flat approach trail), as well as the history of the first new cabin constructed on Colorado’s public lands in over 20 years.

In December 1998, Sue Sturm and Jackie Bellowe organized their first women-only hut trip to the Polar Star Inn, a privately-owned backcountry hut located in neighboring Eagle County. They had so much fun that they continued to visit numerous huts located not far from Colorado’s I-70 corridor, including Francie’s, Vance’s, and Uncle Bud’s, with the same tight-knit group of women. Sturm and her husband Don took part in the construction of a new hut near Breckenridge, which was permitted to be built around the same time as Sturm’s 50th birthday. The new hut actually opened 11 years after that particular date, and they named it the Sisters Cabin in honor of all the time the two women spent exploring the Colorado high country and the female friends they made along the way.

Sisters Cabin, Breckenridge Colorado
The Sisters Cabin comes stocked with amenities, including solar-generated electricity, a wood-burning sauna, and even cell service.Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

After a quick early morning lap just above the cabin, the sun comes out and we start making our way higher to some east-facing alpine chutes. After assessing the snowpack, we lap this expert-level terrain, enjoying not-quite-thawed spring snow, corn, and even a bit of sheltered wind buff. Unlike the snow, the views of the Mosquito sub-range of the Rocky Mountains are always fantastic.

The next day, we wake to snowflakes battering the windows. We explore the north-facing tree runs that descend below the cabin, seeing the potential while carefully skiing the dust on mostly unbreakable crust between smaller patches of powder all the way back to our vehicles. In the car, it occurs to me that this cabin is virtually in the middle of a backcountry ski area. With too many lines on my mental tick list to count, I decide I’ll just have to go back. I smile at the thought and start the journey home.

Sister’s Cabin at a Glance 

  • Elevation of the cabin: 11,445 feet
  • Sleeps: 14
  • Bald Mountain Elevation: 13,682 feet
  • Distance from French Gulch Trailhead to cabin: 3.7 miles 

Trip Planning

  • Getting there: Sisters Cabin is located five miles east of Breckenridge, Colo. There is dedicated overnight parking at the French Gulch Trailhead for those with reservations. The closest airport is Eagle County Airport, 1.5 hours west, or Denver International Airport, two hours east. 
  • Cost: $50 per person, per night. 
  • Stay: LOGE Breckenridge (formerly the Wayside Inn) is a hip, remodeled motel just outside of Breck with reasonable rates for the nights before/after your hut trip.
  • Guides: Colorado Mountain School is an AMGA-accredited business and can get you to where you need to be in Summit County.
  • Info: Learn more here