Classic Sidecountry Lines: Cody Peak, Jackson Hole
Nothing is more anxiety inducing than watching the clouds break after a week of storms, just as the weekend crowds invade your resort. Knowing your local sidecountry is all it takes to keep the hyperventilation at bay.
The distinction between sidecountry and backcountry skiing is minimal. Backcountry skiers skin from the get-go; sidecountry skiers take a chairlift to access the backcountry adjacent to a ski area. Most of the time, there’s boot packing involved. Sometimes there’s a skin. Bottom line, sidecountry skiing seriously cuts down your approach time.
Tobin Seagel shot by Chris Christie in Squamish Backcountry, BC
Closed gate policies in the 90s led to friction between gatekeepers and powder seekers, which came to a head in 1997 when the late Doug Coombs was banished from Jackson Hole for an alleged boundary violation. Less than two years later, this action was reversed and Jackson Hole officially opened its boundaries, setting into motion the sidecountry revolution. Today, most ski areas have followed suit and changed the focus from enforcement to education. Even Squaw Valley, which was one of the last resorts to maintain a closed boundary policy, launched a pilot program last April, allowing skiers to exit the boundary via a backcountry gate located on the KT-22 saddle.
Sidecountry skiing is so popular that most of these areas are getting skied out. But remember, skier compaction doesn’t equal safety. Avalanches don’t work this way. It could be the first track or the 100th track that triggers a slide. Crowds and a close proximity to a resort tend to create a false sense of security. Keep your guard up.
From Washington to Vermont, we bring you eight classic sidecountry shots; Cody Peak is the first in the series. Stay tuned for more.
Hike and ski ratings are in terms of difficulty: 1 being relatively easy, 10 being very challenging.
Cody Peak, Jackson Hole
Words: Brigid Mander — Photo below of Griffin Post, shot by Mark Fisher.
Despite the vast amount of sidecountry terrain flanking Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, one zone dominates not only local ski lore and culture but also the view from the valley floor to the top of the tram: Cody Peak.
From the top of the tram follow the ropeline to the top south gate and double check avalanche conditions. Take the traverse track to a rock face, put your skis on your pack, and scramble up the cliff to where the bootpack continues up behind the face. Your first few times, go with someone who knows the lines well.
Lifted to the level of shredding sainthood by numerous appearances in TGR flicks, not to mention every other ski film ever shot in Jackson, the off-kilter peak doesn’t just offer one line but multiple short, challenging, fun ones, lined up right next to each other.
Just because you’ve seen it skied hundreds of times on film doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk: each line is a corniced, do-not-fall zone demanding commitment. Pucker Face comprises a convex slate with significant exposure. Triple Cliff offers a choose-your-own, 10-second, mandatory-airs adventure. No Shadows and Four Shadows offer straightforward fun. And then, it’s still not over. Nearly the entire southern sidecountry area, from Breakneck to powder fields, is accessible from the bottom of Cody.
Hike: 4 Ski: 6
– Classic Sidecountry Line — Shuksan Arm, Mt. Baker
– Classic Sidecountry Line — DOA, Whistler Blackcomb
– Classic Sidecountry Line — Munchkins, Alpine Meadows
– Classic Sidecountry Line — Hell Brook, Stowe