Recommended Stay: 3 to 5 days
Distance from Boise 260 miles/Drive Time: 5 hours
Distance from Salt Lake 250 miles/Drive Time 4 hours
Trip Cost Estimate: $675 to $2675
Just 5 hours south of Boise and 4 hours west of Salt Lake is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Nevada. The Ruby Mountains are 80 miles long and run north to south with the highest peak, Ruby Dome, topping out at 11,388 ft. The Ruby Mountains get large amounts of dry fluffy snow, but access to the mountains can be challenging during the winter months since there are no plowed roads that go into the mountain range. Most winter recreation in the Ruby Mountains takes place from Lamoille Canyon. To gain access for Backcountry Skiing you have three options in the Ruby Mountains. You can drive up Lamoille as far up as possible to one of the many turnouts and park along the road. You can use a snowmobile to travel up Lamoille Canyon. If you would like to bring a snowmobile every wandervan campervan is equipped with a receiver so you can tow your snowmobile trailer. Another option is to get a ride from Ruby Mountain Heli-Experience. The route shown on Day 2 is easily accessed using a snowmobile by going up the canyon. The road up the canyon is not maintained so if there is a large snow storm it can be a challenge to drive up the road.
The Terminal Cancer Couloir is the most famous line in the Ruby Mountains and runs dead straight in between two rock walls at a consistent pitch of 30 to 40 degrees. Terminal Cancer is accessed near Thomas Canyon Campground, but it can be a challenge to get to the start if there has been a lot of low elevation snow. Terminal Cancer's popularity also means you might find some moguls inside the couloir so if there has not been a lot of recent snow then it might be best to explore some other lines.
During our trip to the Ruby Mountains we parked our campervan in Lamoille Canyon and then partnered up with Ruby Mountain Heli-Experience to help with our transport into the Mountains. The camping opportunities in the Canyon during the winter are limited to primitive sites and you will not always have access to a toilet so it is recommended to bring along a port-a-potty. To partake in the Ruby Mountain Heli-Experience you will need to have at least 8 people in your party and it will cost $1200/person. They provide a lift in on the helicopter in the morning and then a lift out at the end of day in addition to one guide per four people.
On our first day in the Ruby Mountains we met our guides at the Ruby 360 lodge just outside the town of Lamoille. We had to get all the usual forms out of the way and then get training on how to board a helicopter. As with any helicopter experience you are at the mercy of weather since the helicopter may not be able to fly depending on cloud cover. In those cases there is a snow cat available to shuttle you up into the mountains. The clouds finally cleared in the morning and we got our first lift. We were dropped off near the summit of Bald mountain and set to skiing the north-east aspect of the mountain down some long wide open slops. There were some nice aspen groves down in the valley and we ended up doing some laps on this slope for most of the morning. As the day went on we decided to try the western aspect and after working our way over some wind blown rock bands we dropped into a large aspen forest. We did one more run on the western aspect before working our way out among the aspen forest down in the valley. The terrain was fairly mellow today and snow conditions were excellent so we were ready to move onto some steeper aspects the next day. You can find the Route Map here or in the picture below.
Day 2 was our biggest day. We got picked up in Lamoille Canyon. This day's skiing is all accessible from a snowmobile or you could access it with about a 5 mile skin in up the canyon. After getting picked up we were flown to the saddle just below snow lake peak. From the saddle we skied down the southeast aspect toward Lamoille Canyon. We then did another lap on this aspect before dropping into Island Lake drainage. We dropped down a narrow rock chute that then opened into some vast bowls. There were lots of great options in this bowl and we did a bunch of runs, but left a great deal of terrain untouched and unexplored. This drainage is defiantly worth exploring more in the future. To finish out the day we climbed up to just below a cliff band on one of the surrounding peaks and then dropped in on a 2000ft run down into Lamoille Canyon. The snow was excellent until the last 100 feet above the valley floor. From the valley we got picked up and flown down the canyon. Our finish spot on the map would be a great place to park a snowmobile and ski up into the drainage. You can check our Route Map here.
On day 3 the group was a little tired after two hard days of skiing so we planned on taking it easy today. We waited for the weather to clear in the morning and then got a lift up into the mountains. The winds were a little fierce on the summits this morning so we ended up having two separate landing spots to start our days adventure. From the summit we decended down into a large basin before climbing up the other side to look down into Lamoille Canyon. We enjoyed one more big run down the mountain before working our way out to a good spot to be picked up and flown out. We had a great trip in the Ruby Mountains and will definatly be making plans for next year. You can check out our Route Map here.
Campervans available for rent in Boise, ID and Salt Lake City, UT.