Chutes and Towers; a Twist on Traditional Spring Skiing

For many, it isn’t until spring when the “real” skiing starts. It’s at this time of year that avalanche conditions tend to stabilize, the days are getting longer, and the temperatures begin to warm.  This spring, I’m trying to change things up with a twist on traditional spring skiing. Chutes and Towers!

The La Sal Mountains outside of Moab, Utah are hidden gem in the desert southwest.   At just a few hours from my home base in Durango it makes for an easy weekend trip.  And with Castle Valley just around the corner the La Sal Mountains make for the absolutely perfect combo trip!  The drive begins heading south out of Moab towards the old airport and the Geyser Pass road.  After winding up the road, you end at a neatly plowed parking area.  The tour begins here.  With a starting point of almost 10,000 feet it’s a short tour before the goods are in sight.  After we did just a short tour in on the Laurel highway, our objective, Gold Basin was in sight.  The La Sals are a small range with relatively easy access to a wide variety of options.  The runs in Gold Basin have names like Tele Gold, El Pinche, Heavy Metal, and Tukular-Reaction.  The top of Utah’s third tallest peak, Mount Peale sits almost 3,000 above your car and nearly 9,000 above the surrounding desert and Moab!

That’s exactly what sets the La Sals apart from other mountain ranges.  Instead of looking out at other snow covered peaks, your looking out at Canyon Lands, Arches, and Castle Valley!  One word, AWESOME!  Our goal for the day were some laps in the Laurel Cirque and El Pinche.  The Laurel Cirque is a quarter mile wide bowl and El Pinche is a great chute.  So, part one of our spring skiing trip, chutes, done!  Before we dropped into our turns we got a great shot of the iconic Castelton Tower in Castel Valley, objective two!  After the ski, we headed back to Moab and flip flops, and the Lazy Lizard hostel.

On day two we headed out to Castle Valley and Castleton Tower.  We chose to climb the classic Kor-Ingalls route, one of the 50 Classic Climbs of North America, because it’s allows for great views of the La Sals virtually the entire way up.  This tower sits in solitaire. From the summit one has a view overlooking hundreds miles of desert and sky. This impressive 400 foot tall tower sits on top of a 1000 foot tall talus cone putting you nearly 1500 feet above the desert bellow!  The climb consists of four great pitches of Utah desert rock before topping out.  The views form the top of the Castleton are nothing less than awesome with unobstructed views right back to our days one objective in the La Sals!  Objective two, done!

Day one big bowl and tight chute powder skiing with views of the desert, and day two desert tower climbing with views of snow covered peaks!  Chutes and Towers success!

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