RMU Hut Trip to Opus Huts

S: Mike Poleto P: Scott Bellow

By Morgan Dinsdale
“Everybody up!” shouted Fino, aka Bryan Finocchiaro, gazing out the window on our first morning at the OPUS Hut deep in the San Juan Mountains. “There are some things you’re going to want right now; a poop, a water bottle and your camera. It’s almost bluebird and wait ‘til you see how much snow it dumped last night!” Without missing a beat Gary Fondl responds; “The forecast says 100% chance of facials, and I’m the weatherman!”

“The forecast says 100% chance of facials, and I’m the weatherman!”

S: Gary Fondl | P: Scott Bellow

The giddiness across the group was palpable. Tucked into the hillside of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, our RMU crew was abuzz, ecstatic for the ski touring adventures that lay ahead. None of us expected four perfect bluebird powder days, but that’s what Mother Nature delivered.

We’d travelled from across the west, through winding canyons and wide-open stretches of land showcasing the grandeur and magnanimous nature of Colorado to be here. Surrounded by steep tree runs, wide open bowls and craggy couloirs for the taking, we’d found ourselves in a perfect mountain home, a little mountain hut made from reclaimed barn wood. Nestled in some of Colorado’s most spectacular scenery between the legendary ski towns of Silverton and Telluride, the Ophir Pass Ultimate Ski (OPUS) Hut is one of Colorado’s best remote alpine huts and for those of us who relish in “earning your turns”; it’s high mountain utopia.

S: Gary Fondl | P: Scott Bellow

There’s something about waking up IN the mountains that’s unlike any other kind of high. As the only lady of the trip, I can assure you there was little glamour in bunking with a roomful of boys, but waking up to those mountains was worth every little compromise, lucky to be with a crew of incredible skiers, filmers and friends who’d come together for adventure and laughter in the mountains on a 4-day film trip with RMU.

"Waking up to those mountains was worth every little compromise."

Along for the quest was Alex Neuschaefer (drone videographer, RMU co-founder, badass teleskier), Mike Poleto (RMU athlete and for this trip Acute Mountain Sickness victim), Scott Bellow (photographer, outcast splitboarder), Brian Spere (Jackson Hole sender), Jason Laabs (large drone transportation aka sledneck), Ben Ferrante (splitboarder and all-around jokester), the aforementioned Bryan “Yeah Baby” Finocchiaro (RMU athlete, straight-line aficionado) and Gary Fondl (Skiing Godfather of Summit County, well on his way to accomplishing his goal of skiing 500,000 self-propelled vertical feet in this, his 50th year), and me, Morgan Dinsdale (RMU athlete and Lady of the Hut).

P: Alex Neuschaefer

We were here - the Rocky Mountain Underground team with a few ski touring friends in tow (I mean, who else is going to mock me while I slowly ascend mountains?) - for a few days of exceptional, unbridled skiing in the San Juans. We would leave few faces unskied, few lines unexplored. Our spirits bursting with joy from one bluebird powder day after another, sweeping turns under the Colorado sunshine, sending steep lines and constantly joking over the radio.

S: Gary Fondl P: Scott Bellow

“Perfect chicken feather is 26 degrees,” remarked Gary one morning at breakfast, while we were discussing the day’s adventures ahead. “That’s what my years of Colorado have taught me; when it does that, with no wind, it’s pow time all the time!”

And that it was.

We skied sun up to sun down from day one to our last afternoon, inspired and encouraged by each other’s unique style and approach to backcountry lines. Laughter was our common denominator and the central element in every day. Like kids in a candy store, each day brought new goals and intentions, fresh crew dynamics and shenanigans, and some of the best lines of my life. One moment Gary would beckon with his “sick chicken” call echoing through the deep woods. The next Fino would be over the radio daring someone to straight-line the face they were standing atop of – for 8$. Who bets 8$?!

P: Mike Poleto

We’d return from each day with smiles glued to our faces – from skiing lines usually reserved for heli-skiing – to a cozy hut with warm soup waiting, homemade dinners, music by the fire and nights recovering in the sauna.

Wading back from the sauna, barefoot and knee deep in powder with a broken headlamp, I found myself smiling in the knowledge that the falling snow would, tomorrow, bring yet another serving of unskied powdered faces in the company of wonderful and wacky skiers. I felt drunk off happiness and skiing. Intoxicated with exhaustion and elation.

P: Scott Bellow

But it would be our last full day that would forever hook me to Colorado’s mountains, more addicted to its hidden peaks that I could ever be to any drug. After physically pushing myself to my limit, I found myself sitting atop an untouched chute divided by rocky outcroppings. As others climbed to the summit a short distance further, and Alex prepared the drone, I found myself sitting quietly, looking out on an endless expanse of mountains. It took the breath right out of my lungs and brought tears of gratitude to my eyes for such an exceptional experience.   Looking down on the line I was about to ski it hit me right in my chest, you couldn’t have wiped the smile off my face if you tried. The boys swore they could hear every bit of laughter that came with every turn on my way down. Sometimes joy just bursts out of you – this was one of those moments.

"You couldn’t have wiped the smile off my face if you tried."

S: Bryan Fino P: Scott Bellow

This trip was filled with magic moments for each and every one of us. From Jason and Brian laying massive powder eights down a steep bowl under the afternoon sun, to the Fino-Fondl Combo chasing epic lines and each other until the sun disappeared from the sky, to Austin, our hut master, finally skiing a couloir with us he’d been eyeing from the hut window for over three years. It was a trip for the books.

P: Scott Bellow

The giddiness we’d felt on day one only grew with each day. And it’s the laughter that I remember most vividly. For me it was a trip of many first; my first trip as a professional skier, my first film trip, my first all-boys trip. I will remember every turn earned, every swish of the powder underneath my skis. I will remember that last face I summited, pushing on with every ounce of my will, winning over exhaustion telling me NO. But above all else I will remember falling asleep that night, my exhausted frame melting into my top bunk bed, to the sound of the boys laughing downstairs. As I smiled myself to sleep I tasted the sweet thirst for more days like this, days in the mountains pushing my limits, finding new and exciting lines to ski, all whilst reaping laugh lines from the endless smiles brought by these boys, and those mountains.


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