Talking Mountain Yurts' Gold Basin yurt is now open to backcountry recreationists who are looking for a cozy place to spend the night. [Photo courtesy of Talking Mountain Yurts]

The east side of the La Sal Mountains just grew more hospitable to backcountry skiers and other wintertime recreationists.

After nearly two years of work, business partners Jonathan Dutrow and Will Kelly officially opened the doors last week to a cozy new yurt for rent near the Gold Basin trailhead.

“It’s been a long time coming and it’s been a lot of hard work, but now we’re finally at the point where it’s really happening,” Dutrow said.

The 20-foot-wide structure is one of three that the pair will operate on U.S. Forest Service-administered lands in the La Sals.

They’re currently putting the final touches on an even bigger yurt in the Geyser Pass area in anticipation of the first guests’ arrival on Jan. 18. And when spring comes around, they’ll be moving the Gold Basin yurt to a seasonal site near the intersection of three mountain biking trails on Jimmy Keen Flat.

Each of the round structures offers up to eight visitors comfortable places to spend the night, with two bunk beds and fully equipped kitchens per yurt, as well as wood-burning stoves and outhouses.

“The only thing that people have to bring in is their own bedding,” Dutrow said.

The idea for Talking Mountain Yurts grew out of the pair’s own interest in outdoor recreational activities in the La Sals.

“That’s why we put them up there,” he said.

As they went through the lengthy planning process, Dutrow said they took care to keep the structures from becoming eyesores, and to minimize their footprints on the surrounding environment.

“We don’t want to be leaving a permanent impact,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why we went with yurts.”

Dutrow and Kelly hoped to hold their official grand opening on New Year’s Eve, but heavy snows and a brief road closure that followed led them to postpone the festivities until some time later this year.

Still, they’re in the mood to celebrate, as recent storms have been a bonanza for skiers and snowshoers. The last two storms alone brought 35 to 40 inches of snow to Gold Basin, and Dutrow said there was 65 inches on the ground by the start of the calendar year.

“In a normal year, that’s a good year up here, and it’s only January,” he said.

Moab resident Erin Groves said the scene was as picturesque as could be, with snow-covered trees in every direction along a 1.5-mile trail to the Gold Basin yurt.

By signing up well in advance, Groves was able to join seven other people at the yurt over the New Year’s Day weekend. After skiing and snowshoeing their way up the trail, the group found that their accommodations had been prepared with their comfort in mind, as advertised.

“Everything was already set up and ready to go,” Groves said.

Groves heard about the yurts by chance: She’d previously seen a guide to ski trails in the La Sals that mentioned something about cabins or yurts for rent. As she searched online for more information, she found a reference to Talking Mountain Yurts, and gave Dutrow a call.

When they planned their trip, they brought plenty of cold-weather clothing along with them, although in hindsight, Groves said they wished they’d packed some T-shirts, as well.

“It’s really comfortable,” she said. “It is cold outside, but that yurt gets toasty inside really fast.”

Talking Mountain Yurts welcomes visitors and local residents alike; local residents will receive a 15 percent discount.

“If you’re a local, give us a call, because we love to help locals,” Dutrow said.

Visitors are encouraged to check out the Utah Avalanche Center’s forecasts before they head out into the backcountry. To read the latest advisories for the La Sal Mountains, go to:

Talking Mountain Yurts overnight rentals welcome up to eight guests each

It’s been a long time coming and it’s been a lot of hard work, but now we’re finally at the point where it’s really happening.