Cold Smoke and Fire Water

Nevada's Outback provides terrific downhill opportunities
Written by Seth Lightcap      
Winter 2015-2016 / December 2015

Backcountry skiing and hot springs In Central Nevada’s Toiyabe Range

Written and photographed by Seth Lightcap

Ripping into a stand of old-growth aspens, a tangled web of gnarled golden branches hangs over me like the ceiling of a cave. The snow in the shadows of the thick, wiry tree trunks is thigh deep with the silky density of powdered sugar and sawdust. Six inches of duff fell the previous night, covering two feet of soft, two-week-old blower snow. Bewildered by the crocheted tree canopy and the bottomless frothing turns, I glide to a stop entering the heart of the grove. Like stepping into a cathedral, the spectacle demands I pause and pay reverence to these ancient trees’ beauty.

Allison Lightcap slashes into an ancient aspen grove

      The reality of my surroundings feels particularly satisfying as this is my first day ever backcountry snowboarding in Central Nevada. This morning, my wife Allison and I peeled out of Lake Tahoe at 3 a.m. and drove four hours east on U.S. Route 50 to the tiny mining town of Kingston. We came for backcountry skiing in the Toiyabe Range with local guide B.G. Tackett of Toiyabe Adventure Outfitters. The crux of any Nevada ski mission is overcoming the long approaches guarding the powder-packed crests of the ranges. Using a snowmobile and a multi-skier tow rope, Tackett pulled us eight miles up a snow-covered road to these glorious tree glades. We left the sleds on a saddle at 8,000 feet and skinned the rest of the way, yo-yoing up and down from the 10,000 foot ridgeline.

Like a fine wine, Brennan Lagasse uncorks an exquisite vintage of alpine aged pow in the Toiyabe Range

      As if a day of guided pow riding wasn’t epic enough, when you go out with Tackett it’s also an invitation to come stay with him at his off-the-grid ranch near Kingston. Over the last ten years, Tackett and partners built a desert oasis out of reclaimed materials that he fittingly dubbed the ‘Hot Springs Ranch.’ A mere naked cartwheel away from the front door of the house lies a natural hot spring the size of a lap pool. Between the wrap-around sun porch, a communal bedroom that sleeps a dozen and an adjacent ‘three-hole’ composting toilet, the house has the funky charm of a mountain hut, complete with the mountains. The ranch property is located on a high-desert plain surrounded by four beautiful ranges.

Allison Lightcap, Brennan and Jillian Lagasse soak in the serene vibes of the Hot Springs Ranch

      Between the cold smoke face-shots and the fire hot water, our time with Tackett was unforgettable. When the snow conditions are right, Toiyabe Adventure Outfitters offer one of the most unique winter adventures on tap in the wider region.

Squeezing in a last lap before dark, Brennan Lagasse earns a few more fresh turns in the Toiyabes

      For more information about Toiyabe Adventure Outfitters, click here.

 

Seth Lightcap is a Truckee-based writer, photographer, snowboarder and mountain biker. Find more of his work here.