The desert sandstone formations of Moab, Utah, are undoubtedly the primary draw for visitors. But the nearby La Sal mountains that frame the backdrop of the amazing location eventually catch the eye of skiers and beckon them to explore their snow-covered slopes each spring.
A 40-minute drive from downtown Moab will bring you to the trailhead for Geyser Pass, where you can access the La Sals for ski outings. The approaches from this trailhead aren’t too long, so it’s often reasonable to ski tour the prominent peaks like Tukuhnikivatz, Peal, or Mellenthin as a day outing.
But if you want to make more of an adventure out of your trip, you can book one of two yurts nearby and turn your La Sal ski trip into a fun overnight.
The yurts are managed by the Talking Mountain Yurts (link here). One is located near the 10,500-foot Geyser Pass, and the second is at around 10,000 feet in the nearby Gold Basin. Depending on which ski tours or summits you’re aiming for will determine which yurt to choose (see the map here).
The yurts sleep 8 in a mix of single and double bunks and futons and are appointed with most amenities that backcountry skiers are accustomed to in popular huts– woodstove, cooking stove, pots, pans, cutlery, etc. More detailed information can be found on their website.
We chose to book the Geyser Pass Yurt and aimed to ski nearby Mount Mellenthin, 12,645 ft. if conditions allowed. Four of us headed in on the snow-covered Geyser Pass road, following a straightforward route for about 3.5 miles to the yurt. It was easy to find, and the route was packed from prior skiers and snowmachines.
The yurt was really comfortable. With only four of us, there was ample space to spread out. The wood stove heated the room well, but it cooled dramatically through the night. Yurts aren’t insulated very well, and the walls are thin. We had frozen water in our bottles and pots when we woke up to give you an idea of how cold it got once the fire went down.
It didn’t take long to get the stove going, and the room warmed up. We ate a bit for breakfast as we got our gear organized for Mount Mellenthin.
It was barely a mile of pleasant skinning through the forest to reach the base of the north face of Mount Mellenthin. You can ascend ridges on the northeast or northwest of the mountain or a direct ascent up the north face if conditions allow and you like the look of it. At the time of the spring when we were there, the snow was really firm, and we thought a skin/boot up the northeast ridge made the most sense.
From where we broke out of the trees and could asses the options, it was only about 1500 vertical feet to the summit. We skinned until the angle and snow forced us to switch to crampons. We were up on the summit in good time.
Unfortunately, the wind and temperatures wouldn’t allow the snow to soften much, so we opted against skiing the firm north face for a more sunny exposure on the east/northeast side. We picked our way down the firm snow, close to our route of ascent, and before long, we were in the forest, retracing our route back to the yurt.
We grabbed our overnight items left there, cleaned up, and made our way out to the trailhead. It was a great outing. The Geyser Pass Yurt was really fun, and it was special to get up in the La Sals on skis after so many years of staring at the mountains from afar.