The vision of the Alaska Mountain and Wilderness Huts Association is a system of linked, back country huts offering diverse wilderness experience and education opportunities to the general public. Through the huts system, the Association will provide for various levels of physical difficulty to account for a wide range of ages and abilities. Volunteer or paid hut keepers will help the system work smoothly and assist with education. Services will be provided at a moderate cost, similar to other hut systems and non-profit environmental and outdoor education programs found internationally, so as to reach a broad spectrum of users. The Association itself will include a broad-based membership.
The huts themselves will differ from typical public-use cabins. They will offer somewhat greater service, possibly to include mattresses and blankets, pots and pans, propane burners and lights, food and beverage (either staple foods to be prepared by participants, or meals served by staff). The target working capacity is 12, plus staff, with the ability to accommodate about 20 for educational events, retreats for other organizations, and so on. Huts will be places of respite from the elements where people will meet and enjoy each other's company. Their design and operations will foster camaraderie. They will be built with a style that balances cost effectiveness and aesthetics. They will be beautiful, 'blend' with their surroundings, and be 'Alaskan' in character.
The huts likely will be minimally staffed, typically with no more than one person on duty at any given time. Huts will have separate staff quarters when possible. We envision a hut system that is used year round (although a hut keeper may only be present during peak seasons). Huts will be operated in the alpine hut and Alaska 'bush' traditions, so that at least a portion is always open to travelers in case of emergency, even when otherwise closed. The Huts Association likely will run its own reservation system.
Trail systems will be primarily for hikers and cross-country skiers. When possible, we are committed to the development and maintenance of through-trails for a genuine 'hut-to-hut' experience. Trails should be of no more than moderate difficulty. A typical trail configuration might include a very easy section nearest the trailhead, to accommodate day use, and difficult side trips in the back country. Both the hut and trail environments should include as wide a mix of natural environments and Alaska scenery as possible.
Huts and trails will be educational venues. The Huts Association will offer educational programs and also encourage use of hut space for education by other groups. The variety of offerings might include interactive projects monitoring the local environment, optional evening naturalist talks, and multi-day credit courses. Programs, whether grounded in the arts and sciences or in outdoor skills, will capitalize on the surrounding area and the relationship of human culture and the natural world. Independent travelers not part of an educational group may experience the huts as 'outdoor recreation', but they too, will have access to self-guided educational materials, educational programs, and knowledgeable hut staff.
The huts themselves should add as little stress to natural areas as possible. They should not exacerbate existing environmental problems. We envision hut systems building constituencies that will help to preserve natural areas in general and the hut area specifically. The huts will be made of natural materials and will use 'appropriate technology' to minimize the use of natural resources. Group sizes will be small, generally within national Leave No Trace guidelines, to preserve a sense of solitude, promote the integrity of the back country experience, and minimize impacts.
We envision the first hut fulfilling most of the above goals and being accessible from the road system within a two hour drive of Alaska's major population centers and Anchorage's international airport. It should be near enough to the trailhead that it can be reached in a summer evening after work