The La Sal Mountains are one of the most underrated mountain ranges in Utah. Thousands of people venture to Moab every weekend to bask in the desert sun and enjoy the unique rock formations; however, very few people make it up into the alpine terrain of the beautiful La Sal Mountains. This island mountain range is a gem for serious outdoor enthusiasts and backcountry skiers. The La Sals are Utah’s second highest range and contain massive peaks that see few ski descents each year. Simply put, this is a range for the determined and adventure seeking skier.
The Geyser Pass Yurt is located at 10,500 feet, just a few miles from the massive Mount Mellenthin. While there are numerous glades and mellow slopes to ski, Mount Mellenthin is so big and towering that is it is a must ski while at the yurt. From the yurt, the approach to Mellenthin is not that long in terms of miles or vertical, but the hike gets tedious and steep, and it should be planned as hike that will take up most of the day.
To ski Mount Mellenthin, it is necessary to actually skin downhill for a bit to get to the left side of the base of the mountain. From here, it is a mellow skin to get above treeline. Once the trees are behind you, massive views of Mount Mellenthin await. The easiest way to summit the peak is by ascending the chute on the looker's left side of the mountain. This is a relatively steep chute that requires a long and strenuous bootpack of about 1,500 vertical feet. The snow here is often hardpacked and icy, so an ice ax and experience are definitely recommended to summit this mountain.
Once it is in sight, gain the summit ridge and finish the hike to the summit. The views from the top are otherworldly and will not be forgotten. To the west one can see for hundreds of miles over some of the most picturesque desert on earth. Canoyonlands and Arches National Parks are sprawled out on the desert floor, as well as the Abajo and Henry Mountains. There is nothing like this view on earth. To the south lay Mount Tuk, Mount Peale, and No Tuk, which are very big, high-elevation La Sal peaks that will take your breath away. To the east you will be able to see the entirety of the San Juan Mountains, which has snowcapped peaks that extend for miles. Simply put, the view alone makes Mount Mellenthin worth skiing. To descend, choose from either of the three large chutes and enjoy the huge descent back down to treeline.
The La Sal Mountains are wild. There is very little phone service in this range, and wildlife is abundant. Treat these mountains with respect and tread cautiously when skiing. While the La Sals can be skied in all winter months, this range is typically best during March and April when the peaks are filled in and the temperature is warm enough to soften the snow.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.