AVON, Colo. (KDVR) – When Ben Dodge was invited to President Joe Biden’s declaration of Camp Hale as a national monument, it wasn’t a calligraphy-embossed parchment paper invite in the mail or through courier. It also wasn’t through a covert phone call.
Technology, when there isn’t typically cell service at Camp Hale, was at work in this case.
“It came through Sen. Mike Bennet’s office,” said Dodge, the executive director of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, which operates at the site. “One of the crew that works with him sent it out. I think I received a text and then got it by email.”
“It is by invitation only. I felt lucky to receive one,” said the 20-year director of the hut rentals at Camp Hale.
Dodge, a local Aspen resident, and a few people he knows were among those invited to the Oct. 12 declaration. He was staging Wednesday with the crowd by 8:45 a.m., as instructed in Avon first.
“We’re all quite excited about that significant milestone in terms of preserving the culture and legacy of the 10th Mountain Division,” Dodge said.
He said the crowds at the Avon staging area were in the hundreds during the 30-minute window in which he was told to arrive. “We’re just gonna wait to follow protocol and follow instructions and go from there.”
He didn’t expect a lot to change in the area in terms of management except for the betterment of the preservation of the area.
“No, I don’t think the designation of the monument will change a lot about who manages it. The U.S. Forest Service manages it now and they will continue to be the land manager. There’s so much recreation in the Camp Hale area during summer and winter that I don’t anticipate there’s any change in how that land is managed. It may be improved because of the designation. The natural characteristics of that surrounding area – there’s a greater likelihood of those being preserved and being improved,” he said.
Recreationists use the land to ski, snowshoe and snowmobile. Several ski in and out of the Camp Hale huts, which have no amenities and can range in price from $35 to $65 per person per night to around $160 per night for a family of four. Reservations are now open for the winter season, which lasts from Thanksgiving through April.
Dodge said he has seen some increase in the demand for the two huts he rents out with no amenities and people bring their own foods and other items to stay in the huts. The reservations for larger groups than families sold out in a day once bookings opened this month.
“We’re seeing an uptick in demand for the backcountry huts for both summer and winter,” Dodge said. “There’s been a gradual increase in demands for many years but we’re seeing a significant increase in the past couple years. It’s a function of more people moving to the state, more people wanting to visit the backcountry and the outdoors and people looking for the experience of enjoying public lands.”