Newsletter: 5/27/2021- LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Dear Friends of Summit Huts Association,

We hope you are all seeing the light at the end of the tunnel following this challenging year and that we can once again return to some degree of normalcy. We at Summit Huts would like to update you on how this organization has weathered this pandemic, the current state of affairs, and our hopes and aspirations for the future. 

Letter From Summit Huts Association President

Thank you to all our members and supporters for sticking with us this past pandemic period. Thank you for providing us with the support necessary to survive this weird and unexpected year. This next year we look forward to a transition back to normalcy. We are looking forward to a day when our hut users can interact with one another and enjoy the spirit of hut life once again.

This was not only a difficult year for business, but we have also experienced a personal loss of our close friend and Vice President of the Summit Huts Association board, David Jefferson. David and I have sailed, and hut tripped throughout the world together. His legacy endures through the wonderful memories we shared. His presence will be greatly missed.

This coming year we are working to go back to our usual hut capacity, opening back up our saunas, and transitioning back to our single-user reservation system. The most unique experience with hut life is the ability to interact with multiple hut users and establish a comradery with other patrons in the shared use of the huts. I, for one, am extremely excited to go back to something we took for granted, a normal hut life.

Our staff showed an immense strength of character in facing this unexpected year. Our new Executive Director, Josh Flenniken, has stepped up to meet all the challenges we have thrown at him. He is, of course, joined by our outstanding Managing Director, Karen McDonough-Yule. The two of them together have formed a remarkable team that we are extremely grateful to have leading us.

Thank you all for your continued support of the huts. 

-Rich Rowley

Board and Staff Changes

We have seen some changes to the SHA board and staff, the most significant of which is the loss of our beloved Vice President David Jefferson – more on his legacy below. This position has yet to be filled. We would like to welcome our newest Executive Board member Shauna Bocksch – Represtantive at Large. This winter we welcomed new Advisory Board members Kenny Thamert and James Letson in Hut Development, Shauna Farnell in Content and Andy Richmond in Legal Counsel. Chris Tennal in Hut Development will return from his 18-month stint as interim Executive Director to the Advisory Board.

As far as staff changes, prior to the pandemic, Chris Tennal stepped away from the Executive Board and took the role as interim Executive Director. In February 2020, Josh Flenniken was hired as our new Operations Director to eventually step into the Executive Director role once Chris’s term ended in February 2021. Thankfully, Chris has remained with SHA as an Advisory Board member. 

SHA Staff  – Josh Flenniken and Karen McDonough-Yule

Current Board Members and Staff

Executive Board of Directors

Rich Rowley                                   President

Maggie Lifland                               Secretary

Michael Shambarger                     Treasurer

Shauna Bocksch                           Representative-at-Large

Advisory Board of Directors

Brandon Bailey                           Business Development/Marketing
Ryan Burr                                     Educational Programs
Tim Casey                                     Business Development, Donor Relations
Robbie Dickson                           Hut Development
Scott Downen                               Hut Development
Shauna Farnell                            Public Relations/Content
BJ Garcia                                      Events
Linsey Joyce                                Events, Community Outreach
James Letson                              Hut Development
Brian Litz                                      Outdoor Industry, Public Relations
Devon O’Neil                                Outdoor Industry, Public Relations
Kasey Provorse                           Business Development, Non-Profit Organizations
Andy Richmond                           Legal Counsel
Alison Rowley                              Events, Marketing and Social Media
Paul Semmer                                Hut Development, USFS Consultant
Chris Tennal                                 Hut Development, Outdoor Industry
Kenny Thaemert                          Hut Development
Scott Toepfer                                CAIC/Hut Maintenance
Ron Uhle                                        Community Outreach
John Warner                                 Community Outreach


Josh Flenniken                            Executive Director
Karen McDonough-Yule              Managing Director

 Remembering David Jefferson

David “Alfie” Lanceford Jefferson, was born in Darien, Connecticut on April 19, 1951. He had already lived an adventurous life by the time he hitchhiked into Breckenridge in 1973 with a grand total of $0.73 to his name. He moved into a small mining cabin up Tiger Road and proceeded to establish himself as a carpenter, eventually specializing in custom home builds with his own construction company.

An active community member and participant in several local non-profits, David was a longstanding member of Summit Huts Association. His influence over the past thirty years established the huts among Colorado’s most coveted adventure destinations. Most recently, David served as SHA Board Vice President. His business sense, project management experience and construction knowledge helped shape Summit Huts into the dynamic organization it is today.

When he was diagnosed with cancer, David was given two years to live. That was twelve years ago. He did his last hut trip three weeks before he passed away at home surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife, Sharon, and daughters Lauren and Bailey.  David will be sorely missed by us all. 

David Jefferson 1951-2021

Recap of this Tricky Season

Summit Huts Association, like most local non-profit organizations, was negatively impacted by the pandemic. We felt the repercussions economically and they still reverberate to this day.

The initial closure of the cabins for six weeks – effectively ending our 2019-2020 winter season – took a huge toll. We were fortunate to be able to open Janet’s and Francie’s Cabins for the 2020 summer season, albeit at a much-reduced capacity while dealing with the restrictions mandated by the county and state. Cabin reservations were changed to parties having to book the entire cabin only with a cap on the capacity at a lower rate. The cabin rate was constantly changing depending where we were on the Covid-19 dial. While we were lucky enough to be able to open the cabins for the winter, we had to do so with the same restrictions, capacity limits and lower rates.

The pandemic impacted SHA in other ways, too. All volunteer programs were cancelled with the hut cleaning days undertaken by the staff. Additionally, only staff and board members worked the tough but rewarding helicopter day at Janet’s Cabin.

Helicopter Day at Janet’s Cabin – September 2020

The hutmasters took on the lion’s share of tasks with a lot more to be done in a shorter period since they did not use the Hut Masters Quarters overnight as guests were already occupying the cabins. They went above and beyond what their usual shifts entail to ensure the huts were clean and sanitized. Use of the Hut Masters Quarters and the saunas were not permitted. Sheets, pillows, and cushions were taken out and all mattresses were covered with a material that could be easily sanitized. The time between check-out and check-in was extended to allow more time for those leaving to sanitize the cabin. Signs were erected in all cabins outlining the Covid-19 rules and regulations.

Some Fun Shenanigans Witnessed by the Hutmasters…..

The life of a hutmaster isn’t easy. People think it is all fresh tracks in secret powder stashes, the solitude of a good book by a warm fire in a snug, private room, and being awash in the accolades of hut users, grateful for the hero who restocks the toilet paper and shovels the decks. Sometimes it is like that and sometimes it is like this:

Planning to do a day trip to Janet’s (due to Covid-19 occupancy restrictions) only to find the toilet vault drain line frozen and subsequently having to spend several hours in the crawl space with Coleman lanterns. 

Finding there is a leak in a propane regulator, spending several hours ‘MacGuyvering’ a solution without quite the right parts with bare hands holding metal tools in the freezing cold, then skiing out in the dark during a snowstorm.

Escorting an unwelcome nocturnal visitor down the mountain in a live trap.

Thane escorting Woody down the mountain.

Silver Linings

Another casualty of the pandemic was our annual fundraiser, the Backcountry Ball. This would have been the event’s 19th anniversary, but alas, had to be cancelled along with all gathering events in the county. To avoid competing for donations with front-line non-profit organizations in an already economically impacted community, we decided not to host a virtual fundraiser. We did partake in Colorado Gives Day, had a membership drive and a letter writing campaign. Although having to cancel the Backcountry Ball hurt our fundraising capability, we still received incredibly generous donations and an uptick in memberships, particularly Lifetime Memberships, which is wonderful. We would like to express our deep gratitude for your generous support.

Looking Ahead to the Future

With the onset of vaccinations and the drop in Covid-19 cases throughout the county and state, we can finally begin to look ahead to brighter days. We have some exciting plans, including the Francie’s Cabin Remodel:

Remodel plans for Francie’s Cabin

Prior to the pandemic, Summit Huts was hoping to embark on a planned remodel of Francie’s Cabin. We intended to start the work last summer, but this was postponed due to the necessity to have the cabin available for the summer season so we could recuperate some much-needed income. This spring, are installing all new wood flooring upstairs in the hut to be completed before Francie’s opens for the summer season July 1st. Work will recommence spring 2022 and will continue throughout the summer. This will require the cabin to be closed for that entire summer season.  We do have a Francie’s Cabin Remodel Fund for which we have received several generous donations. Our fundraising goal is $150,000 and we are halfway there. If you would like to donate to the Francie’s Cabin Remodel project you can do so here:

Volunteer Programs

We are thrilled to announce that our volunteer programs will be resuming! Our volunteers are an integral part of this organization. We certainly missed you all during the pandemic and are ready to have you back in action. As we have done in the past we will be putting out notices for upcoming volunteer days, including overnight stays. For these cabin workdays, we will require that our volunteers be fully vaccinated. This is to ensure the health and safety of our staff, board members and volunteers. We also hope to recruit volunteers for yet-to-be announced events. We will be sure to keep you informed of all upcoming volunteer programs.

Some of our wonderful volunteers at a Francie’s Cabin Volunteer Day

Key Dates

Summer 2021 
Francie’s Cabin
Opening Date –  July 1 2021
Closing Date – Sept 30 2021
Janet’s Cabin
Opening Date – July 10 2021         
Closing Date – Sept 6 2021      

Winter 2021-2022
Francie’s Cabin 
Opening Date – Nov 11 2021
Closing Date – May 7 2022
Sisters Cabin
Opening Date – Nov 24 2021
Closing Date – April 30 2022
Janet’s Cabin
Opening Date – Nov 24 2021
Closing Date – May 7 2022
Section House and Ken’s Cabin
Opening Date – Nov 24 2021
Closing Date – April 30 2022

Volunteer Cleaning Days – TBD
Janet’s Cabin Helicopter Day – TBD
Backcountry Ball (decision pending) –  TBD

As we end the winter season and look to the future, Summit Huts Association thanks you once again for your support navigating through one of the toughest journeys this organization has faced to date.  Bring on the brighter days!  Stay safe and healthy.

 -With Gratitude from all of us at Summit Huts Association

Summit Huts Association Mission Statement– “Summit Huts Association provides a backcountry refuge for self-propelled mountain recreational users and provides a unique venue in spectacular natural settings for community, charitable and educational programs.”