I first heard of the Ruby Mountains in Nevada when Voile named a ski after them in the early 1990’s. When I asked Wally, the founder of Voile, why, he said “They’ve got the best powder on earth.” This said a lot coming from a voracious powder-hound like Wally who lives in the Wasatch. My first few outings to the Rubies followed the path of least resistance up Lamoille Canyon to either the easily accessible “Terminal Cancer” couloir on the right, or higher up to the Verdi Lakes area on the left. Both were great, but from the high peaks I could see there was much, much more.
The Rubies are a long, skinny desert mountain range surrounded by vast tracts of private land, which makes access an issue. Lamoille Canyon is open to the public, including the predominate user group of high powered snowmobiles, many of whom are willing to give backcountry skiers a tow up canyon if you bring a rope. Another way to ski the Rubies is through Ruby Mountain Helicopter Skiing, who offer heli skiing or guided heli assist touring. Another potential option which I’ve explored, but haven’t done is to fly in with El Aero from Elko. At about $1,400 for one hour, this could be a way to get 4 people plus gear deep within the range for an extended camping trip and then ski back out via Lamoille. Getting into Seitz canyon, where the following photos were taken, is a bit complicated, but can be done on foot with details found in the previous post.
According to Wikipedia, the Rubies have a mylonitic shear zone, “marking the contact between the igneous and metamorphic rocks in the core complex and the undeformed sedimentary rocks around it.” I have no idea what that means, but the area does seem to have quite a few perfect splitter couloirs, of which Terminal Cancer is one of the most obvious, striking and dramatic examples. But, the Rubies also have a ton of great general touring with endless open bowls, rolling terrain, fun alpine peaks and long valleys. In scale they are quite similar to the Wasatch Mountains, but more rugged.
There is no local avalanche forecast center for the Rubies, but Ruby Mountain Heli may be able to give you an update if you contact them. The snowpack is very similar to the Wasatch, and although they don’t have the Great Salt Lake to create lake effect snow, they do tend to get the same storms as the Wasatch, plus they also get the tail ends of all of the storms which split and miss the Central Wasatch. In the beginning of the 2015/16 ski season when the Wasatch was on track to be 100% of average, the Rubies were at 200%.
Category: Trip Reports