Ruby Mountains, NV Trip Report

| March 26, 2010

This was my second trip out to the Ruby Mountains in Nevada and it made me wonder why I don’t get out there more often.  It is about a 3.5 hour drive from SLC and the range itself is quite a bit like the Wasatch, except I think it has more steep skiing potential.  Like the Wasatch, the Rubies are a desert mountain range, so light, dry snow is the norm and there seems to be quite a bit of it.

The Rubies are located just outside of Elko, Nevada, which started life as a railroad town, then turned to ranching and mining.  Perhaps because of the ranching, Elko has a strong Basque culture (sheep herders) which is reflected in the many Basque restaurants that specialize in “family style” dining, a euphemism for more meat than you could possibly eat. The Ruby Mountains were named after the garnets that were found in the area.

The Ruby Mountains from the one-horse town of Elko, Nevada.

While the mountains themselves are flawless, the man-made restrictions on them are not.  The range runs north/south for about 80 miles and is roughly ten miles wide, so it is long and skinny.  Most of the range is surrounded by private property, so access is severely restricted.  The main public trailhead, Lamoille Canyon, pierces the mountain range at about mid point on the west side and goes in roughly seven miles before hitting the north/south ridgeline which forms the Ruby Crest Trail which is the Wilderness boundary dividing line. As a multi-use area, snowmobiles, helicopters and ATV’s are allowed on the west side of the range, which in itself is fine.  The problem from a backcountry skier’s perspective is that because there is only one main trailhead, all of the use multi-use takes place in that concentrated area instead of being spread throughout the range.  Two-stroke is the language of choice in the Rubies and human powered activities are outnumbered by 10:1 from what I have seen.  I’ve had good luck bringing a rope and getting a tow in on the main road from the sledders, and if not, there is plenty of good skiing (including the super classic “Terminal Cancer”) within a short distance from the trailhead.

"Terminal Cancer" with a heli on top. This is about a ten minute skin from the main trailhead.

Noah going with the flow-ah in da Rubsters. Nice plumage.

There is something about the geology of the Rubies that make them very conducive to couloirs and the place is littered with them.

For more photos and comments, please see the Ruby photo gallery on the “PHOTOS” tab.

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Category: Trip Reports

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (14)

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  1. OMR says:

    Great post Andrew. I’ve driven past the Ruby’s way too many times without stopping. Although, Pilot Peak offers good, grungy skiing, and not quite the distance from SLC.

    Did you check out the Star? Basque at its finest, and Hookers just around the corner. Speaking of Hookers, how are those taxes coming?

  2. Nick says:

    Nice! I have wanted to get over to the Rubies for quite some time – just a little bit of a haul. Terminal Cancer has been on the checklist for a long time…. One day.

  3. rod georgiu says:

    Andrew, I would like to ski TC. Is the snow pack stable generally? I know this is hard to answer, but I would appreciate some info.

  4. Christy says:

    Was this on Tuesday? Beautiful pics.

  5. Andrew says:

    Hi Rod – Yes, it is a general question, but in general, I’d say the snow in TC is fairly stable, mainly because it is such a low volume shot and has good side anchoring. The last time I skied it was in 6′ of fresh, deep snow, so it definitely holds snow well!

  6. Pitt says:

    Great photos. We took a trip to the Rubies in February and skied the Ruby Crest trail. Check out the blog for a complete trip report. The Rubies are truly an incredible place.
    Once you are out of Lamoille canyon, we did not see a single track from anyone else.
    Check it out

  7. Chuteski says:

    Memories… of the time we shoveled snow up to our heads. Shattered pictures………. Kristen snaking the turns.

  8. Ralph S. says:

    When the snow melts there are quite a few routes to clip bolts on in Lamoille Canyon. I haven’t made it down there, but I did buy the guidebook.

    TC is a SW aspect?

  9. Andrew says:

    Ralph – I think TC is about as north facing as you can get. We had roughly 30 minutes of sun it is right at high noon.

  10. Andrew says:

    Chuteski – that was a classic. “So, women first?” NO!

  11. kooks says:

    i may, or may not have had the privilege of shredding TC a little while ago, but the rubies….and lamoille…..and nevada in general……is this one we can keep off the internet, and maybe only talk about it over beers in dark taverns? its a really special place, and it would be sad to see more traffic there. oh wait, that will never happen, lets continue raping the world and taking hard to earn treasures, and the last few secrets…… and put them on display for everybody to see. you should link up a map, and maybe buy everybody gas so they can drive out here

  12. Luke Colowit says:

    I’ve always wondered you pronounce Lamoille —
    is it: Lam – Oil ,
    or: Lam – Olay’ ,
    or may favorite : Lam Oily

  13. Mark Angelos says:

    Andrew – we are heading out to film in the Rubies for a few days in two weeks (conditions pending). Would appreciate it if you could share with us a few more classic lines other than TC. (you don’t need to share your hidden stash ;)

  14. Andrew says:

    Hi Mark – I’ve only explored .001% of the Rubies and don’t have any other recommendations aside from keep your eyes open. TC is fully obvious and you can’t miss it, and although it is classic, it is hardly unique there as the geology of the Rubies creates a lot of nice, splitter couloirs. But, most of them don’t end right at the road a quarter mile from the trailhead like TC does. ;) Have fun!

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