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Francie’s Cabin Renovation Press Release- Spring 2022

Colorado’s most popular backcountry hut to undergo substantial renovation

Built in 1994, Francie’s Cabin memorializes Frances Lockwood Bailey, who died in a 1989 plane crash. The hut has seen far more use than anticipated over 28 years. Francie’s son Brandon is leading the fundraising effort for the Summit Huts Association, which plans to complete its work this summer.

BRECKENRIDGE—When Francie’s Cabin was built in 1994, backcountry hut trips were still a novelty. Many considered the idea—traveling to a cabin at 11,000 feet, often in the dead of winter, with enough food and gear to survive—out of reach for all but the hardiest mountain men and women. In the 28 years since, the entire landscape of backcountry skiing has changed, and tens of thousands of people have experienced the magic of staying at a high-elevation cabin like Francie’s.

Perched in the stunning Crystal Basin three miles south of Breckenridge, encircled by 13,000-foot peaks, Francie’s has become the most popular overnight hut in Colorado—no small feat considering the vast network of huts that this state is home to. However, welcoming 20 guests every night of the winter for nearly three decades, as well as for much of the summer (imagine 75,000 people staying at your house in that time!), has taken its toll on the aging wooden structure. It also has meant that many of the hut’s original design elements are no longer viable, leaving the hut in need of significant renovations and upgrades.

The nonprofit Summit Huts Association (SHA), which built and still operates Francie’s (along with four other huts in its network), began a two-year process in 2021 to improve durability, efficiency, and long-term sustainability at Francie’s. The first phase, last summer, replaced the worn-out plywood floors in the bedrooms and hutmaster quarters. The next phase, set to be completed this summer, will include the following projects:

– Expand cooking and food-preparation areas to more easily accommodate multiple groups.

– Replace original kitchen tile countertops with stainless steel surfaces for easy cleaning, sanitary food preparation and low maintenance.

– Add new hickory hardwood floors in common areas for easy cleaning, durability, and warmth. (This will replace the old pine floors that were never meant for the heavy use Francie’s has seen since 1994.)

– Install energy-efficient appliances including new cooktops for greater efficiency and better use of limited gas supply.

– Add daylight-spectrum LED lighting for ease of cooking and energy efficiency, decreasing the draw on solar battery storage.

Perhaps most notable, the fundraising effort to support this project is being led by Brandon Bailey, Francie’s son, who serves on SHA’s advisory board. Frances Lockwood Bailey was the daughter of a 10th Mountain Division ski trooper; she moved to Breckenridge in the mid 1970s, when Main Street was still dirt. She made a life in the mountains and had three young sons when she died tragically in a plane crash in 1989. Brandon, who survived the crash, has fostered a deep connection to the hut named after his mother. Youthful ski adventures on the peaks above Francie’s have given way to trips with his own children—Blair, 2, and Brooke, 6 months. “We’ve celebrated both of Blair’s birthdays with ‘Grandma Francie’ at the cabin, which is something very special to me,” Brandon says. “The ease of accessibility and quality of family experience are hallmarks of the Summit Huts system that Francie’s really embodies.”

Bailey, along with the rest of Summit Huts’ board and staff, invites guests new and old (and future!) to join in the vision for a more sustainable Francie’s Cabin—and ensure a continued legacy of providing warm, dry, and happy mountain experiences in the Crystal Basin. Donations can be made at Francie’s Cabin Renovation Fund. For more information, please contact SHA at summithuts@summithuts.org or 970-453-8583. Interviews can be arranged with SHA executive director Josh Flenniken, board president Rich Rowley, or Brandon Bailey.

All donations will go directly to the labor and materials of the renovation. Any excess funds upon completion will be put toward the Francie’s Cabin Capital Endowment Fund, established to provide for future capital improvements not related to annual operational maintenance.

For more information about our interior renovation & sustainability upgrades, please visit HERE.