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Ski Moab

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
We are heading to Moab this weekend for some biking and backcountry skiing. Has anyone been up in the La Sals lately? How about a snow report.
post #2 of 10

You might try asking over on TelemarkTips.com. There are a lot of Utah backcountry skiers there.

We're going to southern Utah the week of May 1. We were going to head for Moab and do the LaSal's for a day. Now, we're going to Beaver instead and try to skin up to Delano Peak in the Tushar Mountains.

Good luck if you do the LaSal's. Post a report.

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks Bob. I took your advice and posted a question on Telemarktips. I had already checked out the avalanche web site, but the info is from last weekend, and they don't seem to update it very often. It's sponsored by the Poison Spider Bike Shop, so they may have some local first-hand info.

I've been wanting to do the Moab biathalon (skiing and biking the same day) for a few years, and the snowpack in the La Sals now is the best it's been in about 10 years. I'm looking forward to some desert sweetcorn. I'll post a report if I pull it off.
post #4 of 10
Definitely post up on the LaSals, I am thinking of making a trip down there myself.
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

4/17/05 – La Sal Ski Trip Report

After posting on this site and TelemarkTalk and getting almost 300 “views,” I received no responses from anyone that had any info on skiing the La Sals. The Avalanche web site and phone number are done for the season, so we had nothing on current conditions. Arrived in Moab on Saturday afternoon (it was close to 80 degrees) and went to the Visitors’ Center, Poison Spider Bike shop (which sponsors the Avalanche Report), several other bike shops, and Pagan Mountaineering (strictly a rock climbing store), and was not able to get any first hand or current info. Rim Cyclery has a book of photos and route info, but no one there knew anything about current conditions. There are no ski shops in Moab, but there is a small group of local hard-core backcountry skiers.

Finally found someone that gave me a phone number of a local skier who was very helpful and gave me specific directions on finding the up skin track, and generally where to ski. Left the motel in Moab at 6:15 am, and it was already about 60 degrees. One hour drive to the trailhead on Geyser Pass Road, last 4.5 miles were dirt and frozen mud, but no problem to drive.

Trailhead is at 9,600 feet. Fairly mellow skin track climbing almost exactly 2,000 vertical along ridgeline through aspens and pines to the avalanche weather station (on a small pole you can’t see until you are almost right here) just above tree line. Climb was 2 hrs. at my old guy steady pace. At this point we were about 6,000 feet above Moab.

Since the skin track is climbed mostly in the early morning on frozen snow, it was pretty vague in places. The views were absolutely incredible. The Gold Basin peaks were right in our face, with all the red rock canyons to the west. Two guys from Steamboat at the top when we got there. They had dragged sleds into the valley and were camping for 3 nights at about 10,500. We could see their tracks coming off the tops of the surrounding peaks. Also saw two other guys climbing a west-facing chute on Mt. Mellenthin (12,646’) that was 45 degrees in places, which they were going to ski. Very little evidence of slide activity, just sun point releases from the rocks.

The weather station is on a spur ridge between Mt. Mellenthin and Mt. Peal, and there is skiing on every aspect. The number of possibilities from this one spot were amazing, both mellow and extreme. Cool wind from the south kept the snow hard until about 10:30 (hour later than usual). While we waited for the snow to soften 5 locals showed up who had also skied there the day before. We all skied the south face right from the weather station that was 30 degrees of perfect corn and 1,000 vertical down to the heart of the valley where the Steamboat guys had camped. From there the locals and Steamboat guys climbed the 1,200 northeast facing chutes on Mt. “Tuk” for a much steeper run. My wife and I decided to ski our way out the valley, and we did about a 600 foot climb up a lower west facing chute that had corned up perfectly by then.

I would highly recommend the spring skiing in the La Sals, the only problem is getting out. You cannot really ski down the up skin track. Off some north facing slopes you can ski out to the Geyser Pass Road, but the south facing skiing feeds into the central valley of Gold Basin, which is the best way to get out, but if you ski too far down you end up in a canyon. The trick is to find a track that traverses north and climbs back up to the Gold Basin Road. We got lost for a while and did not get back to the car until almost 3:00, which was just before the locals who climbed and skied at least 1,000 more verts than we did. If you go without a local I would suggest taking a GPS.

The snow should be great for at least another two weeks, and getting thin down low on any exposed areas after that. It was incredible skiing with the only drawback being (as one of the locals said) “it’s up going in and up coming out” due to the climb back to Gold Basin Road.

PM me if you want specific directions to the uptrack. It is easy to find. It’s getting back to the trailhead that gets interesting.
post #6 of 10
Thanks, mudfoot.

Sounds like a fun trip that would be worth repeating. I don't know if you've seen it, but Tyson Bradley has written a book called "Backcountry Skiing Utah":

"Utah skiers claim to have "the greatest snow on earth," and this revised and updated edition guides readers to the best backcountry ski tours in the state. Backcountry expert Tyson Bradley takes skiers from the urban backcountry of the Wasatch Front to spectacular desert destinations in Zion and Bryce, with detailed maps and information on backcountry equipment, techniques, and safety.

Backcountry ski guide, avalanche-safety instructor, and author Tyson Bradley describes sixty-five tours with hundreds of descents from the Wasatch Range to the remote Tushar, Abajo, and Henry Mountains. Trip planning, avalanches, and route finding techniques are all covered. Get information on length, vertical relief, difficulty of each tour; the best time of the year to ski different routes; the essential equipment needed for alpine touring, telemarking, and snowboarding and detailed topographic maps.

Falcon Press, 2003 (2nd Edition), 288 pages.

Tyson Bradley is a nationally recognized extreme and backcountry skier. He writes a regular skiing column for Sports Guide, and has published articles in American Alpine Journal, Rock & Ice, and other magazines. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Backcountry Skiing Utah is available today from SideCanyon.com"

The book has several pages about skiing the LaSals and a section on skiing around Blue Mountain (down by Monticello). Tyson is a climbing guide (Exum Mountain Guides in Jackson and SLC), a heli guide for Wasatch Powderbird, and - last but not least - a brand new daddy.

The book also details skiing the Tushars in south-central Utah, which is where my wife and I hope to be skinning up Mt. Delano two weeks from tomorrow.

Thanks again and I'm glad you got there.

post #7 of 10
Cool TR Mudfoot. We were down in Moab last week also, biking. I never really considered BC skiing in that area ( I always thought all the Utards went touring in the Wasatch range, never thought the La Sals had enough snow). Sounds like you had a great time, thanks for sharing.
post #8 of 10
nice one mudfoot - like ffth - i always bring my bike down and never the skis! I'm going to Fruita CO in less then a month too
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Our plan was to ski in the morning and bike in the afternoon, which would definitely be possible, but the skiing was so good that it would be stupid not to spend the time to do as much as possible once you have made the trip into the good terrain. Access was really pretty easy with a one hour drive from town and a two hour climb on a mellow skin track. It was mind blowing to be standing on a ridge looking at all the ski lines and then turn to see Behind the Rocks, Slick Rock, and the White Rim and Canyons Lands Nat. Park to the west thousands of feet below.

Bob, thanks for the info on Tyson Bradley's book. I had not heard of it before. We took a hard look at the Abajo (Blue) Mountains in Monticello on the way home, which we have biked but never skied. After the La Sals' trip, I'm thinking that the Henry's would be an even more unique experience.

If any one wants to try the La Sals, ski a little more than 1/2 mile up the Geyser Pass road from the parking lot and look for the skin track into the trees on the right. It pops out on the Gold Basin Road, which you only go up for about 400 yards, then look for a skin track into the aspen on the left. Just take this up the ridge all the way to the top. Coming back out you just have to hit the Gold Basin Road again. Leave town by 6:00 and be sking corn by 9:30.
post #10 of 10
A bit of trivia: The Gold Basin road was put in by Exxon in the 80's. They thought they would drill through the igneous rocks and find oil or gas in the sediments below. My wife was the well site geologist. They used to regularly abandon the rig and blast for avalanches.

After their expensive and inevitable dry hole they were going to replant the road, but the forest service instead had them upgrade it and keep for skier access.
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