Ruby Gulch, the drainage for Ruby Creek, is a little-used backcountry ski area in the front range. It is a perfect destination for when the avalanche danger is high, the snow is fresh, and Current Creek and Butler Gulch are crowded. Surrounded by Mount Parnassus, Bard Peak, and Robeson Peak, the views above treeline are spectacular and there are several low-angle slopes that are safe for skiing. For those who prefer tree skiing, there are several options on the east side of the trail on the way up, from the treeline point, and down the trail itself.
From I-70, take the Empire exit (hwy 40). Go through Empire and go through the small town of Berthoud Falls. Approximately .3 mile after Berthoud Falls, turn left (west) on to the Henderson Mine road (county road 202). Go .4 mile on this road and look for a sign that says "Urad". This is Woods Creek Road (county road 203). Turn left (south) here. Follow Woods Creek Road about 1.4 miles, or until you see a pull-out for parking on the right side of the road. Woods Creek Road is gated in the winter just beyond the parking area.
Mt Parnassus from Ruby Gulch
From the parking area, walk about 40 feet west on the road. Ruby Gulch is on your left where you will see a gate with a sign that reads "danger" on it. Getting up to the trail from the road was one of the biggest challenges of the trip as there is a big wall of plowed snow along the road next to the trail. The parking and trail are at around 10,300'.
The Ruby Creek drainage heads basically south but meanders slightly. Stay to the left (east) of the drainage on a trail that is fairly obvious most of the time. On the way up, you will see trails or wide spaces between the trees heading off to the east or southeast. We went 200 feet up one of these at about 10,950' and had a nice ski back down to the main trail.
After you've climbed about 1,000 feet from the trailhead, there is a big open area followed by an increase in steepness. This is a good meeting area for the tree skiing section, as the tree skiing will pretty much funnel you back to this point.
The treed area ends at about 11,650 (see photo below). Turn left (east) and head about .1 mile up to the high point at 11,700, just on the edge of the trees. This is your starting point for the tree skiing. Now ski back down through the trees to your meeting place at 11,300'. Be careful not to go down into the drainage to your right as you ski down. The terrain will naturaylly funnel you back to the meeting point, but make sure that you turn left (west) towards the trail before it flattens out too much and you get stuck in a low area. Although there are some good turns in the trees, use caution and watch for bumps under the snow as there are a lot of downed trees in the area.
From the treeline you can also continue up above treeline. Most of the terrain is not steep if you continue to head south. Our path up to 12,000' is on the attached map. A few skiers in our group went up to about 12,100' to catch a few extra turns.
View of Bard Peak at Treeline
On the way down, the trail is wide enough to do short, sharp turns. We took our side trip on the way down to break up the descent.
Be sure to stay to the EAST of Ruby Creek when skiing.
Avy gear - beacon, shovel, probe.
Radios can be handy for wooded area skiing.
To get the Garmin gdb file with track and waypoints, copy and paste the following link into your browser.
http://home.comcast.net/~ski-n-sk8/ruby gulch ski.gdb
It may look like nothing happened, but a new window will open (you may need to look for it) and ask you what to do with this file. Save it in the folder containing your Garmin gdb files.
The points on this map correspond to the gdb file above.