South Mountain, located on the southern edge of Moab’s La Sal Mountains, is a remote (in the winter) destination. Therefore, if one wants to make turns from her summit, they best be prepared for a 13-mile round trip tour. Skiers will also need to pack along a tons of calories, so it’s a good thing I had a can of Rocket Bike Lager from the Moab Brewery in my pack.
The idea for this trip began in December of 2013, which will go down as a bleak month for backcountry skiing in Utah. After a few good storms, the powder faucet shut off, leaving high pressure and rotting, wind-blasted snow in the Wasatch. Southern Utah, however, had been buried in white. Utah was a state divided, and skiers starved for powder had to choose sides. Seeking soft snow, Adam Symonds and I drove to Moab to find that elusive Utah powder.
At 11,817 feet, South Mountain is among the smallest peaks in the range, but it stands out like a lonely mountain, separate from her sisters like Mount Peale and Tuk to the north. While the bigger mountains get all the love from skiers, due to size and accessibility from Gold Basin, South Mountain is harder to appreciate. The approach is extremely long for day tours, and the summit is a full 1,000 feet shorter and barely goes above tree line.
With the mobile yurt parked at the La Sal Creek winter trailhead, Adam and I skinned up the closed, snow-covered road. We stayed on the La Sal Loop Road all the way to an open meadow where snowmobiles had a heyday. Finding a creek crossing, we skinned up a side-gully between the South Mountain Glades and South Mountain. Though the obvious route was to the saddle between the two mountains, we stayed looker’s right and ended up on the east ridge, where a gnarly, wind-scoured shoulder got us to the summit after 6 hours of skinning. Beyond tired, we were rewarded by the unparalleled views of Utah’s red rock desert all around us, followed by the best run of the season.
The glades and meadows on South Mountain’s southeast face are sublime. While open snow was crusted by late-afternoon, the sheltered pine forests offered perfect, settled powder through perfectly-spaced trees for thousands of feet. Adam and I whooped, hollered and laughed at our burning thighs as the vertical and never-ending fall line seemed like a dream.
Moab Brewery Rocket Bike Lager
To celebrate our accomplishment at finding the only soft snow in the state, we cracked open some cans of Rocket Bike Lager from the Moab Brewery. This american-style steamer lager is smooth and creamy, and has a tons more flavor than the name “lager” would signify. The taste is very malt-forward, with even some slight spiciness to it. This lager is rich and full-bodied, yet refreshing at the same time.
While I think it’s excellent right out of the can, when poured into a glass it has a amber/orange glow. A nice topping of foamy head leads to good lacing in the glass, but somehow drinking it outside the can makes the mouthfeel a bit thin. Perhaps the fact that it’s a low-alcohol beer betrays it, and the can hides that fact when you quaff it from the pull-tab hole.
Overall, even though I’m more of a hoppy, IPA type of guy, the Rocket Bike Lager is one of my favorite beers from the Moab Brewery. It’s tasty, and it comes in a can, so it’s also very Summit Brew friendly. You can find it at the Moab Brewery in town, and pretty much every grocery store/gas station in Utah.
South Mountain is a feisty girl. She plays hard to get, but if you work hard and earn your turns, she’ll give up the goods. So powder-starved, soulful skiers, head south to the mountain of the same name. And bring some local micro-brews like the Moab Rocket Bike Lager with you… you’ll need the calories.