Usually located deep within the mountains, shelters offer a place for the night to hikers and adventurous climbers.
Mountain shelters do not have hosts per say. Instead they have a guard, who administers the shelter during peak periods. The keeper can also manage the food and beverages supplies if the shelter is quite accessible. Generally, he is the one to inform you about the weather conditions and will help in case of a serious accident. However, some shelters are in complete autonomy (especially off-season). In this case, you will have to get the keys beforehand, and gauge the amount of food you will have to take with you.
Shelters are rustic accommodations by tradition: once, they were old cabins for shepherds, cave shelters and hideouts, often build out of natural materials such as wood, stone and thatch. It is worth mentionning that winter shelters are often more basic than their summer counterparts. They are usually composed of a main room, with tables and benches for sitting and eating.
You will find rooms and dormitories in most shelters, but it is recommended to book your place in advance. Notifying your arrival is necessary, especially during peak times, otherwise you might have to sleep directly on the floor if all the beds are already occupied. The bathrooms in shelters are fairly basic as well, just like they would be during a night in the middle of nature : they are composed of outdoor toilets, and a water hose for showers (in the least equipped shelters).
Shelters that are more accessible (by donkey or helicopter) can provide lunches, if booked in advance. However make no mistakes: you will not be at the restaurant. The cooking is largely dependent on the supplies at disposal and the equipment available inside the shelter: the menu will be unique and simple. However, some shelters provide kitchen ustensils so you can prepare your own meals. If you packed your own food with you, you will be albe to eat your picnic lunch in a special room literally named "bag-out".
Shelters are often located on the slopes of popular mountains, the nearby activities can easily be guessed: hiking and mountaineering.