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6 min

Hut Haven

The Alps owe their excellent accessibility to a vast network of mountain huts.
Words by
Tess Weaver
October 19, 2023

For over a century, backcountry huts in the Alps have sheltered mountaineers and skiers in some of the world’s most rugged, dramatic, and scenic mountain terrain. And they served good wine and coffee along the way. Hundreds of these mountain refuges — some rustic and self-catered, some luxurious and run by hut wardens — allow skiers to easily access world-class descents before breakfast or complete multi-day ski tours, traverses, and other itineraries. By offering warm beds and meals, the alpine huts enable skiers to travel with minimal supplies. Sure, backcountry huts exist on different continents, but the European hut model was the first and remains the best. Here are a handful of Alp-huts worth putting on your list.

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Cabane des Vignettes

Arolla, Switzerland

At the crossroads of two Haute Routes to Zermatt (one leading to Chamonix; the other to Verbier), the Cabane des Vignettes (3,157 metres/10,358 feet) above the Arolla Valley accesses classic peaks like L’Evêque, Mont Brûlé and the Pigne d’Arolla. Built of rock and perched between the Pigne d’Arolla (the highest point reached on the Haute Route) and Mont Collon (known as the Matterhorn of Arolla), the hut sleeps 120 in its warm, wood dorms and is rumoured to serve the largest rösti (sautéed potatoes) in the Alps.  Photo by: Patitucci Photo

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Refuge du Goûter

Mont Blanc Massif, France

On a narrow ridge overhanging the Aiguille du Goûter, Refuge du Goûter (3,835 metres/12,582 feet) is France’s highest hut and the final stop for mountaineers climbing Mont Blanc. The four-story, ovoid-shaped structure is a marvel of design and ingenuity — it’s powered by sun and wind and self-sufficient. It employs a complex siphonic drainage system used in submarines, allowing bacteria-free water drainage into the natural environment. Located on a ridge where southwest winds can exceed 300 kilometres per hour, the hut is secured with 69 pilings anchored 12 meters into rock, but its rounded ellipsoid shape minimizes snow accumulations. Photo by: Pascal Tournaire

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Monte Rosa Hut

Zermatt, Switzerland

Known as the “rock crystal”, the strikingly modern Monte Rosa Hut (2,883 metres/9,459 feet) is famous for its innovative architecture and sustainability. The crystal-shaped building with an aluminum and glass shell uses solar energy and thermal body heat from its occupants to heat the lodge naturally, making it 90 percent self-sufficient. From its original, simpler iteration in 1895 to the opening of the new building in 2009, trekkers and skiers have traversed the ever-changing Gorner Glacier in the Monte Rosa massif to reach the hut, which sleeps 120 and features a large terrace overlooking three glaciers. Photo by: Tonatiuh Ambrosetti

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Refuge Gervasutti

Mont Blanc Massif, Italy

Located on the iconic Les Grandes Jorasses, a series of summits linked by a beautiful ridge, the Refuge Gervasutti (2,835 metres/9,301 feet) offers skiers and mountaineers the opportunity to sleep in a tube dangling over the edge of a mountain. The space-aged capsule is designed by LEAPfactory, an Italian company specializing in low-impact structures for extreme environments. It generates power via photovoltaic cells integrated into the outer shell and a wind-powered micro-generator. Now the world’s highest eco-hotel, the Refuge Gervasutti sleeps 12. While built for function, the exterior graphics mimic a knit ski sweater, warmly welcoming skiers, and mountaineers. Photo by: Francesco Mattuzzi

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Capanna Regina Margherita

Monte Rosa Massif, Italy

Located on the summit of Punta Gnifetti in the Monte Rosa massif, the Capanna Regina Margherita (4,554 metres/14,941 feet) is the highest hut in the Alps and the highest building in Europe (and houses the continent’s highest weather station). Punta Gnifetti is the only prominent peak in the Alps to have a staffed hut directly on the summit — one that serves good wine, pizza and great coffee. Typically accessed from the ski resort Alagna, Capanna Regina Margherita offers panoramic views of Monte Rosa, Alagna and Val Sesia. The hut sleeps 70 people in rooms with double beds — though sleep might be elusive at this altitude.

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Wassen, Switzerland

The Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt is probably the world’s most famous hut-to-hut ski tour. Still, experienced backcountry skiers and ski mountaineers know of another route with better skiing: the Urner Traverse. The route between Andermatt and Engelberg, often called “The Skier’s Haute Route”, passes the century-old Sustlihütte Hut (2,257 metres/7,405 feet) perched spectacularly on a bench behind Engelberg’s Titlis Mountain. Thanks to its sun-drenched deck with views of the surrounding verdant meadows (in summer) and dramatic glaciated peaks (year-round), many regard the Sustli Hut as one of Europe’s most beautiful huts.

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Tess Weaver is a writer and editor based in Aspen, Colorado. A former editor for Powder and Freeskier magazines, she has contributed to publications like The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, The Atlantic, Outside, ESPN, Bike, Surfer, Backcountry and more. Tess is a passionate skier and mountain biker who is passing along her love for the mountains to her two young children.
Hut Haven
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