It's a popular place in the winter for cross-country skiers. The Gordon Reese Cabin on the ski trails at the Chief Joseph Cross Country Ski area is a very convenient warming hut for those who are out on the miles and miles of free groomed trails at the south end of the Bitterroot Valley.

The area is on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and the Wisdom Ranger District handles a unique volunteer program every winter. Those interested can volunteer to take care of the place for a day and stay the night. The cabin is reserved for the program two days a week - Tuesdays and Fridays.

Volunteers do not need to stay the entire day, but during the time they're onsite, they make sure the woodstove fire is going, ensure that snow is melting for hot water, do some minor cleanup work in the cabin and outhouses and also shovel the paths to the outhouses (very important!). You'll also restock the firewood from a supply in the basement.

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As you might imagine, this is a popular program and the opportunities fill up pretty fast. Over the years, the sign-up times have become more limited. Monday, November 1st, is the only day to sign up this year. Be ready to accept whatever dates they have left when you call. The phone will be answered starting at 8 a.m. MDT. There's only one number 406 689-3371. You should call as early as possible.

The other nights at the cabin are open for rentals. Of course, the US Forest Service has a national reservation number for those requests. They start taking reservations on Monday, Nov. 1, and they're only $10 a night.

By the way, if you're new to the area, the free ski trails are east of Lost Trail Pass at the top of Chief Joseph Pass on Highway 43. Some of the trails will go through the burn areas of the Trail Creek forest fire this past summer.

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