Road Trip! Jackson Hole, WY

Comments by jh/

“I’m heading to Jackson”. Drop that gem in the lower 48 and watch everyone’s eyes get big like silver dollars. The place is legendary – Judaism has Jerusalem, Islam has Mecca. Those of us in the skiing community who only ski the green circles to get to the bar have Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The name even rolls off your lips, like a pair of fat skis rolling into 45-50 degree Pucker Face on Cody Bowl.

The plan was simple enough – finish coaching at WPR at 3pm Sunday, roll to the airport in Denver and catch a 90 minute flight. The Super Bowl was on. Was I upset to miss it? Not for a second. Perhaps that’s what separates me from the majority in the States. Those that would much rather watch a sporting event on TV than get the legs and lungs pumping by doing something physical. Anything really; skiing, surfing, skating, jogging, whatever. Get off the couch already is what I want to yell at the majority of Americans! Exercise is your friend – fun, boosts endorphin levels, leaves one mentally sharp, sculpts the physique and increases sex appeal. It’s a win-win for god’s sake.

United Airlines managed to lose my one ski bag. Pretty impressive considering I was at the airport 1 hour 45 minutes early and it was a direct flight. After the initial frustration subsided, it actually worked out for the best, as I took out the new Seth Pistol K2 skis all 3 days on United’s tab, and saying that’s a dope ski is like saying Bode Miller skis fast.

Day 1 – We had to stay inbounds as my backcountry ski gear was still in transit. It’s been a while since I have been on the true steeps that a place like the Teton Mountain Range offers. Squaw Valley last year was sick, Taos 2 years ago as well, and Silverton the year before. They all had it.

While I love the valley I live in as well as the mountain I claim, the steep and deep isn’t exactly our forte. In J-Hole rock drops beckoned from all angles, and I must have hit 2 dozen in the 6’- 12’ range by the time I caught my flight back home. I’d love to be back with some local knowledge on which of the bigger cliffs were ready to huck, yet unfortunately through my eyes anything in the 20’+ range had a potential plethora of jagged rocks just below the surface. Enough to make me think twice, that’s for sure.

The most startling thing I noticed skiing in Jackson was the difference in snow quality as you changed aspect. Anything north facing was soft and carvable, but switch to a southern aspect and you were asking for sun baked crud that had thawed and refrozen too many times to count. Within one run you could go back and forth a half dozen times.

Day 2 – A strictly side-country day. We started with a hike on Cody Bowl. That’s the one you’ll see in plenty of pictures taken at Jackson. It is exquisite from any angle – corniced out 40-50 degree pitches with plenty of rock exposure and mandatory airs both in and out. The hike was even rowdy. One of those in which the boot pack is solid ice and a fall would be devastating at best, deadly at worst. The snow was a bit heavy, but I’m a fan of the theory that perception, and not reality, is everything. For example, Winter Park has kind of sucked in regards to powder skiing this winter; therefore my perception of the snow at Jackson was enhanced. However, someone coming from Utah may have thought that it was less than stellar. Remember that, perception is everything, reality isn’t.

Day 3 – The night before we stumbled into town, caught a true country western band and then stumbled back to Teton Village to catch the last couple of hours of the annual Jackson Ski Patrol party. To say your average resort patrol unit is a bit heavy on the testosterone is a vast understatement. Imagine that same crew at a mountain like J-Hole. They attacked the bar with zeal, probably in the exact same fashion in which they descend the mountain.

Day 3 started a little slow. We did a short hike in Casper Bowl and that led us to some soft turns. Unfortunately, the snow had deteriorated considerably since day 1. This is a mountain with sick locals that know where every rock drop is in every nook and cranny. Jackson Hole gets tagged quickly.

We didn’t catch it on the most epic of powder days, and the mountain still impressed. If that’s not a solid endorsement of a ski resort I’m not sure what is. I’ll be back.