By Don Nelson
Backcountry snowmobilers will find a new warming shelter at Sweetgrass Butte this winter, courtesy of the Methow Valley Snowmobile Association (MVSA).
MVSA president Craig Stahl said the mobile warming hut was taken to up the butte recently, and will be available to other backcountry recreationalists as well as snowmobilers.
Stahl said the 8 ½-by-20 foot, trailer-like shelter was built over seven days by club members and took about 400 volunteer hours. North Valley Lumber helped out by providing materials at below retail cost, he said.
The shelter’s primary purpose is to provide a safe, warm spot for snowmobilers to rest or wait for assistance from search and rescue crews, Stahl said. It will be open to the public when the snowmobile trail system opens.
The insulated hut is on the main trail through the area and has a wood stove, a table, a couple of chairs, maps of the area, and three windows, Stahl said. It has a shed roof design to deal with the expected snow.
The shelter is in place thanks to a one-year permit from the U.S. Forest Service on a trial basis, and can be moved if necessary, Stahl said. He said it’s possible the hut might be used during other seasons in the future.
MVSA has working on the idea of a Sweetgrass Butte shelter for several years, Stahl said.