Forest Service says Burnt Mtn ski cabin is off limits |

Forest Service says Burnt Mtn ski cabin is off limits

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
The U.S. Forest Service had a contractor remove part of the roof of an old ski cabin on Burnt Mountain earlier this month. The agency told users the cabin is now off limits.
U.S. Forest Service |

A cabin that’s been used as a backcountry getaway on Burnt Mountain for at least 30 years has been taken out of commission by the U.S. Forest Service.

The agency had a contractor remove a portion of the roof earlier this month after asbestos was discovered, according to Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer. The rest of the cabin could be demolished as early as next year.

The cabin is located in terrain between the Burnt Mountain glades and the Long Shot Trail at Snowmass Ski Area. It is within Aspen Skiing Co.’s permit area, but not in terrain Skico uses for its operations.

Skico officials previously said they didn’t pursue destruction of the cabin.

The Forest Service has notified some users of the cabin not to replace the roof. A tarp was placed over the part of the roof that was removed to prevent rain from getting in. That will buy time for people to remove personal belongings.

The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District will conduct a review this winter on demolishing the cabin and other structures the agency believes were illegally constructed on public land. A list of the other properties being studied for demolition wasn’t immediately available.

The public will get a chance to comment on the proposed demolition during the review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Shelter for backcountry skiers

One regular visitor to the cabin objected to the way the Forest Service pursued the demolition. Removing the roof under the guise of asbestos removal “pre-empted” any legitimate public debate about keeping the cabin, the person said. The elements will eat away at the cabin during the Forest Service’s review, the person said, so the agency will determine the rest of the structure must be demolished.

The cabin user requested anonymity because of the ongoing effort to try to reverse the Forest Service’s direction.

A person who helped build the cabin previously told The Aspen Times that skiers on Burnt Mountain in the early 1980s decided they needed a humble warming hut.

“We were about halfway down Burnt Mountain, sitting under a tarp stretched around a tree, eating cold food, and decided, ‘We can do better than this,’” the man said last summer.

They used the log foundation of a suspected miner’s cabin for the warming hut. A mine and mine dump is located a short distance away on a cliff face.

The skiers added deadfall logs from around the site to build up the walls. Aluminum plates formerly used in The Aspen Times printing process were used for the roof. The plates date to 1984.

People would duck into the small cabin and warm up around the wood stove or hang out in the sunshine. They would swap stories and enjoy the quiet of the forest without the rattling of chairlifts, voices of hundreds of people and general commotion of the ski area, said a source who said he visited the cabin about five times per winter.

‘Strong emotional attachment’

A small group of cabin users have discussed the Forest Service’s actions and questioned if asbestos was found in an amount that posed a safety hazard, according to the person who sought anonymity. They also questioned if it’s the best use of the Forest Service’s time and taxpayers’ dollars.

The Forest Service said it removed the roofing with the asbestos because it had a contractor in the area working on other asbestos-removal projects. Removing the roof when that crew was available saved mobilization costs, according to the agency.

Schroyer said she understands there is a “strong emotional attachment” to the Burnt Mountain cabin because of the longtime use. The agency simply can’t justify allowing its continued use under its rules, she said.

The structure is on an unpatented mining claim. No one has maintained that claim or turned in a regular plan for mining operations, Schroyer said. Therefore, the structure was built illegally. The Forest Service doesn’t believe the structure has historical significance.

The White River National Forest spends a significant amount of time dealing with unauthorized structures on public lands. It documents structures and demolishes them as time and money permit.