This seldom traveled route uses most of the same trail as the standard route from Norrie and has slightly less elevation gain and more miles. Begin at the Granite Lakes Trailhead with skins and follow the marked trail that leads around the lake. Ski the trail SW another 500 feet to a foot bridge over a small creek (8,800 feet). Cross the creek, then swing W and climb 1/4 mile up a steep gulch to a flat area (9,010 feet). The South Fork of the Fryingpan River will be directly in front of you at the bottom of a shallow gulch. Turn left (S then SW) and follow a trail-cut that parallels the South Fork for just under 1/4 mile to cross the South Fork (no bridge) at 9,050 feet.
After crossing the South Fork, the trail winds W then SW for several hundred yards to a vague Y split. Here one trail continues up the South Fork of the Fryingpan, while the one you want climbs to the right (W) up a small hill, then winds 1/3 mile (light uphill) through conifer and aspen to a major road (9,150 feet). If you lose the trail here, just continue W and you’ll intersect the road. Once you’re on the road (road number 504.1), you simply follow snow-covered roads W for 3 1/4 miles to intersect the standard Norrie/Aspen trail at Twin Meadows.
Stay to the north end of Twin Meadows, and ski around the north side of the north lake. Follow the west shore of the north lake, then enter the forest on the obscure summer trailcut for the Aspen/Norrie trail. There is a sign here but it may be covered by snow. Follow the Aspen/Norrie trail as it leads out of Twin Meadows on the north side of Deeds Creek, then crosses Deeds Creek and climbs into Foster Gulch. The trail parallels Foster Creek for 1/2 mile, then begins to turn W away from Foster Creek at 9,920 feet, and climbs W to 10,240 feet. From here you swing S then W to meadows at 10,400 feet.
From the meadows a steep climb leads over a divide (11,057 feet) and into Sawmill Park. Enjoy the view of the Elk Mountains from Sawmill Park and ski down to the lower (west) end of the park. At the lower end of Sawmill Park (11,000 feet) find the Margy’s Hut trail which leaves from the north side of the park. It is easy to miss this fork. If you have trouble here, the trick is to identify Sawmill Park with adroit map reading, then stay on the north side of the park and ski to the west end where you search out the 10th Mountain junction markers on a couple of medium-sized evergreens. Your altimeter can really help here, and a GPS is highly recommended if you don’t know the trail.
Once you find the junction, leave Sawmill Park and follow the Margy’s Hut Trail W then SW as it makes a long 1 3/4-mile climbing traverse up to the hut. Margy’s Hut is usually visible several hundred yards before you reach it, but it may be hidden by snow on heavy snow years, with just the upper front windows visible.
Skiers should note the length of the trail and plan accordingly.
Locations of Observed or Reported Avalanche Activity: Avalanche activity has been reported along this suggested route at locations indicated below. Elevations indicate approximate elevation where the slides crossed the trail, not the starting zones.
Avalanche size/destructive force is scaled according to the American Avalanche Association as follows:
From the 4-way stop sign in Basalt at Two Rivers Road and the Fryingpan River Road, follow the Fryingpan River Road approximately 31.5 miles to signs for Fryingpan River Ranch and for Nast Lake/Granite Lakes Trailhead. After the turnoff, a winding dirt road leads 1.1 miles to the obvious buildings of the ranch.
The Granite Lakes Trailhead is just after the bridge.