If you are looking for the step by step guide on Nevada skiing, you won’t find it here. It is not that I do not want others to enjoy the landscapes and adventure that I was fortunate enough to experience, but simply that some of the best adventures start with the wonder of what could be. Here, I won’t mention the specific names and locations, I’ll leave that for you to discover. Our journey, along with all of the mishaps and memories, will be shared.
As a diehard weekend warrior, there is nothing better than a long holiday weekend. My routine every weekend is filling up the gas tank and heading deep into the Colorado mountains for a weekend getaway.
However, with the extra day and the forecast for the Colorado mountains calling for thunderstorms, dreams of new terrain kept sparking my interest. As the weekdays progressed leading up to Memorial Day weekend, ideas of trips to New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah were jumbled amongst text messages. Not until Wednesday evening that Lio showed up to my apartment with a big ol’ smile and said, “I have to show you something on Google Earth”. Lio spent hours scouring various mountain ranges on maps and eventually found some terrain in Nevada that looked promising. He pulled up Google Earth, and there it was, an isolated valley with a straight, perfectly skiable couloir at the end. We had no details on the specifics, but after a few calculations on our maps, it appeared the hike could be anywhere from three to six miles depending on how far we could drive up a 4WD road, and the couloir we estimated to be about 1,200 vertical feet with a pitch around 40 degrees. We spent the evening searching the internet for information, and somehow was able to find a single website worth of information on the area. We learned you have to pass private property in order to access the canyon, and this required some coordination with the landowners. After making contact with the landowners, we were told a fee of $10 per person/per day is required to pass over the property.
The combination of lack of information, travelers, and something new meant this was the proper adventure we were looking for. The decision was made that over 3 days, we would drive 22 hours, hike up the canyon, and ski as much as we could during that time.
Friday could not come soon enough. We packed up the car, and as usual, departed an hour late from our goal departure time. We drove until 4:00 am and pulled off at Stansbury Island of the Great Salt lake and set-up our tent on BLM land for a brief 1.5 hours of sleep. The warmth of the sunrise got us up from our sleeping bags and we were greeted with the amazing colors over the Great Salt Lake. We took a few pictures, packed up, and hit the road west traveled once again towards Nevada.
There were few options for breakfast along the way, so I decided to crush a half bag of Jalepeño Kettle chips while my adventure partners pushed for a McDonalds sandwich instead. Fueled up with the breakfast of champions, we met a security guard at a gas station, and grabbed a key that would let us access a gate to the 4WD road that would lead us up the canyon through the private property.
To our dismay, the 4WD road was brief. We pulled up our GPS maps to see that this property was at the base of the wrong canyon. We were one canyon south of where we needed to be. As we did some more quick research, we found that the next door neighbor was not accepting travelers across their property, so we had no choice but to park our car and start trekking from the southern canyon.
About two minutes into the hike my boots were already wet from the muddy creek crossing. We found remnants of another 4WD road, and followed it up the ridge to get a view of the correct canyon. As we stood on the ridge, there was no trail, and nothing but grass, bushes, small trees, and a river that we had to cross in order to get to the correct 4WD road. The Nevada sun beat down as we worked our way through tight aspen trees and came to the river. We had no choice but to work as a team to get our bags across, which took about an hour in total to cross the river. It was at this point that we started feeling the heavy weight of our packs. Lio likely had the heaviest pack around 80 lbs, as he felt bringing 4 camera lenses was necessary for the trip along with a few extra beers.
Stoke levels rose as we finally made it across the creek and made it to the 4WD road, which we felt would make for easy hiking the rest of the way. About 0.5 miles later, we lost the trail. Downed trees, swampy areas, and a seldom traveled trail made finding the path nearly impossible. There were several moments where we were exhausted, and the idea of setting up the tent and letting our skiing dreams fade were discussed. Boulder hopping with skis attached, falling into rivers were all the ways Mother Nature was trying to prevent us from seeing this pristine canyon. However, we continued to push and eventually the familiar feeling of slapping on the skins, strapping on the ski boots, and gliding our way across the snow came. Eight hours after walking away from the car, we were finally setting up our tent as the Nevada golden hour lit up the following day’s objective.
As we prepped the campsite and prepared for dinner, we had trouble getting our water filter to work. The sun was rapidly setting, the temperatures were dropping, and we did not have the energy to wait for the water to work its way through the filter. At an elevation of 9,600 feet and runoff coming straight from the melting snow, we decided just to dip our water bottles in the melting lake. I took a quick drink, and due to my exhaustion and freezing toes from my wet socks, crawled into my sleeping bag. Both Sara and Lio had the stamina to cook dinner, and were kind enough to wake me up so I could have a few bites.
Before I knew it, I was waking up as the tent began to brighten. The time was 6:00 am and it was time to hit the snow before the sun turned it into a giant slurpee. A quick 10 minute skin led us to the bottom of the couloir we had our eyes on. We kept our skins until we started having some traction issues, and then transitioned into crampons, pulled out our ice axes and continued up the couloir. The north facing aspect allowed for firm snow the whole way up and no signs of rockfall. We took our time, enjoying the solitude, taking in the views, and doing our best to document the beautiful couloir.
Just before reaching the top of the couloir, the sun was out in full force and it felt as if we were slowly cooking in an oven. We pushed on to the top and quickly shed as many layers as we could. Gave a few hoots and hollers to the world, then ripped the skins and put the skis on. One by one we made our way down the couloir top to bottom feeling the burn in our legs from the day before while trying to avoid the crud that was on the right side of the ski descent.
Gathering at the bottom, we looked up at the impressive feature amongst the mountains that we just descended. I felt my phone in my pocket, I could not believe I had service. I let my mom know that we had already skied our line and I would send her the pictures later.
We enjoyed a few beers back at our tent before we packed our things and started to make our way back down the canyon. It was much easier keeping to the trail on our way down, but we still had several obstacles to avoid along the way. As we got a late start on our descent, the sun was starting to set as we came to the fence marking the property we did not have permission to cross. We walked a few steps over to the river to see a few downed logs across the river that we could potentially cross. However, due to the spring runoff, the water level was high and the logs were either split in half or slippery with water. Once again, we came up with a plan to get our large packs across the river and then making one last quick ascent over the ridge back to the canyon where we parked our car. At the top of the ridge, we were greeted once again with the breathtaking Nevada golden/pink sunset. A light breeze kissed our sun baked faces and the the tall grasses gently swayed making for an incredibly picturesque ending to our hike.
Being in Nevada, we had no desire to cook another freeze-dried meal for dinner, so we decided to go to a local casino and enjoy the prime rib special that was offered. The noise, lights, commotion of civilization showed us that every once in awhile, you need to take advantage of the time that we get, and go out and find, the “proper adventure”.
When I’m asked where this incredible couloir is, I’ll tell them, Nevada. Now get out there and find your adventure!