San Juan Mountains, Colorado
By Sven Brunso
The OPUS Hut sits nestled in the highest stand of pines before tree line dissipates into the grandeur of the rugged alpine terrain of the San Juan Mountains between Telluride and Silverton. Initial access to the hut at 12,000 feet in elevation can be a near religious experience for visitors from low elevations. While the hut is elevated and isolated, it has impressive access from both the Silverton side starting from Highway 550, and the Telluride side starting from the town of Ophir just off Highway 145. A majority of people come from the Silverton side and access the hut by parking at the pullout just south of the Ophir Pass Road sign and skinning up at the summer jeep road that climbs lazily for 2,000 vertical feet to the hut. The gradual climb provides the perfect pitch to get acclimated and soak up some of the most astounding scenery on the continent.
While OPUS in this case stands for Ophir Pass Ultimate Ski the building itself is much like the definition of OPUS – an important piece of work usually done by an artist. The artist in this instance is Ophir resident Bon Kingsley who built the OPUS hut, to closely mirror huts he had previously visited in the Alps, with his own two hands using wood remnants from a Wisconsin dairy barn. In 2003 Kingsley purchased a mining claim adjacent to Paradise basin and started building the hut in 2006 and opened it to the first visitors in 2011. The hut perfectly combines the charm of a traditional mountain hut but adds amenities much appreciated by visitors such as running water, indoor bathrooms, plugs for charging electronics and a wood fired sauna.
Like many huts in the Alps, OPUS sits smack dab in the middle of a lifetime’s worth of skiable terrain. From the front porch looking north, towering spires of rock are laced with steep couloirs that cascade onto perfectly pitched aprons that deliver guests back to the front porch. From the dining room windows a 180-degree panorama spans from Kendall Mountain to the east all the way to the tip of South Lookout Peak and Paradise Basin to the southwest. When snowpack stabilizes each spring, every visible peak, bowl and ridgeline becomes a backcountry skiers dream. From OPUS backcountry travelers can spin yo-yo laps near the confines of the hut or do day long epics that span distant peaks and valleys.
The San Juan Mountains get ample snow and it often comes in substantial storms. When the storms come in big there are great tree skiing laps to be had right outside the front door and below the hut. When the sun is shining and avalanche danger decreases it is time to venture out and paint tracks on the massive white canvas spreading out in every direction. OPUS will reward visitors for burning calories with homemade soup and bread each afternoon, a hearty homemade dinner and a gourmet breakfast. Not much better in life than watching the sunrise illuminate 13,000-foot peaks while sipping coffee next to a wood burning fireplace while planning your morning ski session. This OPUS is truly a work of art and one you must experience in person to truly appreciate. Go to opushut.com more information on booking and availability.