Backcountry hut trip elopement in the San Juans

Kelsey + Josh’s Backcountry Hut Trip Elopement

Kelsey and Josh booked the nicest backcountry hut for their elopement in the San Juans. Usually going on a backcountry hut trip means communal backpacking meals, melting snow for water, sleeping on rubber sheets, and using a freezing cold outhouse, but not this place. Campfire Ranch Red Mountain Pass (formerly Thelma Hut) comes with a host who cooks breakfast, afternoon soup/snack, and dinner for your whole group—it was such a bougie treat and might have ruined me for all other hut trips in the future.

Planning a backcountry hut trip elopement is not the easiest undertaking, but Kelsey and Josh had gone on hut trips together before, and knew they wanted to spend their wedding day splitboarding and enjoying the mountains, so that’s what they did. (If you also want to get some runs in on your wedding day, I have a whole guide to ski and snowboard elopements here.)

The week leading up to their elopement, the San Juans were hit with a huge snowstorm, and the road to the trailhead leading to the hut was shut down for avalanche mitigation for a couple of days. We kept our eyes on the forecast (both weather and avalanche), came up with backup plans in case we’d be unable to make it up there, and kept crossing our fingers.

When the elopement day finally came around, we got the most beautiful bluebird day we could have asked for. Yes, it was cold AF (my car read 19° when I showed up to the trailhead in the morning), and so windy that Kelsey and Josh had to keep their gloves on while exchanging vows, but that’s all part of eloping in winter in Colorado—you have to be prepared for anything. And when everyone had been so prepared for the worst case scenario of not making it to the hut, we weren’t going to let the cold stop us from having a good time!

Between a couple of touring laps, a solid snowboarding run for the newlyweds, and traveling across a couple of feet of fresh powder all day, we were all completely wiped by the end of the day. And as I skied back down to my car under a pastel winter sky at dusk, I could not wipe the grin off my face. This. This is how I would elope if I had a do-over.

Kelsey and Josh, congratulations—and thank you for letting me be a part of such an incredible elopement day. Can we do it all over again next season?

“Nina is incredible—and probably only person up for the challenge of capturing our elopement. We came to her with a tall order: a far drive to the San Juan mountains…in the middle of winter…to a backcountry hut in avalanche terrain, only accessible with a backcountry ski set up—and she was immediately in!

Aside from incredible photography skills, which I feel is a given when you look at her work, Nina was a wonderful human to work with. From beginning to end, she was available and willing to give us thoughtful suggestions and resources to help shape our day—from florist recommendations, to ideas on how to perform our ceremony and write our vows—she really knows the ins and outs of elopements and how unique each one is.

We also really appreciated Nina’s flexibility and the work she did for ‘just in case’ scenarios—What if the mountain pass to our location is closed for weather? Don’t worry, Nina has already scouted out multiple alternative options. What if we have to change around our plan/schedule for the day? Not a problem, Nina is happy to go with the flow and adjust.

I literally could go on and on about how wonderful our experience working with Nina was. Just book her, you won’t regret it.”

Kelsey & Josh

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