Saturday, April 14, 2012

Uncle Bud's Hut

The Ski House of the Day is Uncle Bud's Hut, one of the 10th Mountain Division Huts in the backcountry of Colorado.  My research of this house has introduced me to the story of one courageous soldier, and how there came to be a ski hut named for him.  It reminds me of the incredible sacrifices that were made by those heroic soldiers, as well as the inspiration that can be found in a soldier's story, and the honor and respect we skiers owe to the memory of one particular skier-soldier.

Burdell "Bud" Winter was one of the elite 10th Mountain Division soldiers who fought WWII on skis.  Bud Winter was from the Adirondacks in NY, and according to  he was an expert skier, mountain climber and ski-patroller before he signed up for the "ski troops" in 1943 (at age 18).  The training for skier-soldiers included time at Camp Hale in Colorado, and for one group of the particularly skilled (including Bud) it also included their own project, the "trooper traverse" -- their remarkable 40-mile ski mountaineering expedition across the mountains from Leadville to Aspen.
Bud skiing
In 1944, Bud and his fellow soldier-skiers went into combat in Europe.  And then, on this date sixty-seven years ago (April 14, 1945), 20-year old Bud Winter was killed in action in the mountains of northern Italy...this was just two weeks before the end of the war (German forces in Italy surrendered on May 1st leading up to V-E Day, May 8th).   The courageous combat of these soldiers in (Castel d'Aiano) Italy surely was among the efforts that led to the end of the war there that came only two weeks after Bud was killed.  But, while the world was celebrating the end of the war (V-E Day), Bud's family must have been struggling to make sense of the timing of their overwhelming loss.

Uncle Bud's Hut winter

Uncle Bud's Hut is as much a memorial as it is a ski house;  it was built and dedicated to the memory of the courageous, expert skier and WW II hero, Bud Winter:

The house sits at an altitude of 11,370 in a beautiful setting:

Inside are two private bedrooms upstairs, plus a dorm-style sleeping room.

The first floor includes a living area where displayed on the wall is a pair of the white-painted wooden skis that were made specifically for use by the 10th Mountain Division, as well as various other mementos of Bud's life:

Photos of the hut are courtesy of Brittany...a skier / ski-mountaineer who (unlike me) has actually been in Uncle Bud's Hut.  Brittany is one of a very elite group of skiers who has skied all of Colorado's 14ers!  Check out her amazing adventures on 14erskiers.

Back to the hut...there's a large kitchen that contains a vintage wood stove for heat, plus gas stove burners for cooking.   Also in the kitchen is a bright red well pump mounted on the wooden counter next to the sink:

Bathroom facilities are out in the out-house (connected by a convenient boardwalk):

In the house visitors will find Uncle Bud's Hut dedication book, (what Claire Walter of Culinary-Colorado called) an immensely moving book which includes photocopies of letters Bud wrote to his family during his military training, photos, touching handwritten memories by Bud's fellow skier-soldiers, and the Army's heartbreaking telegram of regret.

Bud's brother (and sister) donated the funds to construct Uncle Bud's Hut as a memorial to their heroic brother; and the hut was dedicated in 1989.

The trail head to ski/hike to the hut is at Turquoise Lake.  The nearest town to the hut is Leadville,  the starting point of Bud's legendary "trooper traverse" in 1943.


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