Described as one of the most rowdy in bounds run in the United States, Corbet’s Couloir is not for the faint of heart. It has also earned the award of “America’s scariest ski slope.” With a potential drop of 10 to 30 feet, it is on the bucket list of most die hard skier and snowboarders. To reach the famed couloir you need to take the tram up to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. Once out of the tram, head into Corbet’s Cabin for some delicious waffles. Your choice of waffles include waffles covered in nutella, raspberry jam, butter and brown sugar or peanut butter and bacon. Between each scrumptious bite of nutella drenched waffle (my favorite), take the time to muster up the courage to ski one of the craziest lines of your life.
Once you are fortified with delicious waffle, ski the ridge on the left hand side (towards the tram) until you reach a roped off area. Take a few deep breaths and ski into the entrance. There is typically a line of people, waiting to ski it. If there aren’t any other people around I’d advise you to be a little cautious. People may not be skiing it because the landing is super icy and you may want to reconsider skiing it. My favorite time to ski it is during the spring when the snow is a little more forgiving. Typically, by the end of the season there is a goat path into the couloir, created by skiers that side slip the drop. One year the side slip was so defined that as long as you could make the bank turn you could ski into the couloir. Other years it has a smaller drop (3 to 5 feet) than coming off the top of the couloir. It definitely requires dexterity but if you are a strong skier you should be able to accomplish it.
Once you are in the coulior you can spend some time hanging out in the cave on the left hand side of the run. During the springtime there is typically a crowd of skiers in the cave drinking beers and watching the spectacle that is Corbet’s – epic falls, amazing saves and great executions are all fun to watch. If you prefer not to ski the coulior I recommend that you ski the East Ridge Traverse into Tensleep Bowl and look up at the people trying to ski it. Or you can ski up to the edge of the couloir up top and watch people from above while your palms sweat.
I have skied it numerous times (primarily in the spring) and a classic line is to ski Corbet’s to the Expert Chutes and then traverse into Toilet Bowl and finally ski Dick’s Ditch to the bottom of the mountain. They call this line the Bamboozler run. If you are going to ski Corbet’s you should definitely try to complete the Bamboozler run. Without stopping. Haha, just kidding. Even if you aren’t the best skier around, if you love to ski you definitely need to at least stick your tips over the edge of Corbet’s and then take a deep breath and imagine skiing the famed run. Nothing beats the nerves that you have just before skiing a big line. It’s definitely earned its place as one of the most scariest ski runs in America.
This year marks the fourth annual Winterfest in Jackson Hole. What is Winterfest? It’s a two week celebration of all things winter. It includes ice skating, nordic skiing, horse racing (yes, you read that right), ice climbing, hockey, dancing, wine tasting, and of course, downhill skiing. New this year is a snow biking event! Yep, that’s pretty much all of the different activities you can do in Jackson Hole during winter. For a full schedule on the events and activities visit the Jackson Hole Chamber’s website.
My favorite event of Winterfest is an event that is going on it’s 43rd year – the Cutter Races. The Cutter Races is a fraternal and charitable fundraiser. Net proceeds benefit the Salt Lake City Shriners Hospital for Children. So what are the Cutter Races? Men race teams of two horse drawn chariots down a drag strip of snow. It’s something that you would expect to see in the Greek or Roman empire around 600 BC, not in 21st century Jackson Hole. The sight is incredibly rare – people tailgating out of their trucks that are backed up to the snow bank, dollar bills exchanging hands as people place bets on red or green. The air fills with chants of “Go Red! GOOO!” Then there is the occasional horse that spooks and makes a run for the fans who are shielded by a makeshift fence. People line the quarter mile strip cheering for their favorite horse, drinking beers and eating bratwursts grilled on a hibachi on the back of a pick up truck. It doesn’t get much better than that! The Cutter Races are held just south of town near Melody Ranch on Saturday and Sunday, February 15 & 16. The entrance fee is $15 per adult and children 12 and under are free. For more information visit their website.
On Saturday (February 15) through Monday there is a alpine ski race on Snow King Mountain, located in downtown Jackson. The Wild West Classic Elite FIS Series features two Giant Slalom and two Slalom events. The event offers a view of some of the best ski racing talent from all over the world. If you are into ski racing you should definitely stop by and watch the race for a bit. Snow King is steep and the course is technical, making for some great skiing!
Also on Saturday is the 21st annual Moose Chase Nordic Ski Race. The race takes place at Trail Creek, at the base of Teton Pass in neighboring Wilson. This is a premier Nordic race that includes a 30k (that skis like a 50k), a 15k, 5k, 3k and a free 1k. Athletes of all ages and abilities welcome. For more information on the Moose Chase race visit the Jackson Hole Ski Club’s website.
On Monday there are snow bike demos at Snow King Resort, culminating with a snow bike race at 5PM. Unfortunately, there is much information available about the race but feel free to check out the Teton Mountain Bike Tours website.
On Friday, February 21 there is the 3rd annual Winter Fest Wine Tasting and Silent Auction at the Center for the Arts. Entry is $25 and includes a souvenir wine glass. Proceeds benefit restoring the historic Masonic Lodge. It is guaranteed to be a fantastic evening of wonderful wines, fabulous silent auction items, loaded with fun and fellowship among friends and neighbors. The event is 21+ and starts at 5:30PM.
Also on Friday is the Jackson Ice Fest at The Exum Ice Park at Snow King. Participants will compete under the lights for prizes. Events will include a Poker Climb, a Speed Climb, and an Efficiency Climb. If you wish to compete the fee is $20. Some equipment will be available to use but climbers are asked to bring their own if possible. Spectators and competitors will enjoy keeping warm by the campfire with hot chocolate! For more information contact Exum Guides.
On Saturday there is a Winter Trails Day at Cache Creek Trailhead. Families will have the afternoon to explore multiple winter recreation opportunities available on the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Activities include free Nordic ski lessons as well as a chance to meet and thank the trail groomers. Fat tire/snow bikes demonstrations will be available along with several avalanche related presentations including avalanche rescue demonstrations, and avalanche probe line and shoveling techniques. Participants at this winter festival will also be able to participate in snowshoe demonstrations and tours in the area. Also provided will be a winter Snow Ranger project for kids led especially by a Bridger-Teton National Forest naturalist. This is a great way to spend the day enjoying the outdoors with your family.
Also on Saturday and Sunday is Ski Jouring, held at the same location as the Cutter Races. What is Ski Jouring? Skiers and snowboarders get towed into a jump behind a horse. Think of water skiing but then replace the boat with a horse and the water with snow. Got it? Yeah, it’s a wacky sport!
Winterfest culminates with the Lion’s Club 49er Ball, held at the Virginian Saloon. The evening will start with dance lessons by Dancers’ Workshop at 7:00pm followed by the Kenny Bradberry Band at 8:00pm. The event will feature wonderful silent auction items, a $1000 Grand Prize, exciting “Las Vegas” gambling, and the famous costume contest. Tickets are $15 and available from the ’49er Queen candidates, Brandy Armajo (307.690.6238) and Beth Shidner (307.690.1352). $20 at the door.
So there you have it! Two weeks full of wintry fun. It’s events like these that make Jackson Hole so unique. There is so much more to do during the winter months in Jackson Hole than just ski. I hope that you get to come experience some of the other things that Jackson Hole has to offer!
I wake up to Passenger’s “Let Her Go” playing on my alarm clock. For a moment I think about just staying in bed. The song is like a lullaby, coaxing me to just lie back down and close my eyes. Then I think about my friend, Julie, who I promised to meet at the end of Old Pass Road in Wilson at 6:30AM. I can’t let her down. And then I think about how skiing soft, blower powder makes me feel. Okay, I’m up.
Like the majority of other Jackson Hole residents, I have to be at work by 9AM so if I have a prayer of skiing powder it means getting up before the sun and heading to Teton Pass. On powder days us 9 to 5ers are up early, hiking the Glory boot pack in search of our powder fix before heading in to work. We like to call these type of backcountry missions “dawn patrols.”
The issue with dawn patrols is that you typically don’t have a substantial amount of time. The most common early morning run is to park at the top of Teton Pass, hike Glory, on the north side of the pass, and then ski Twin Slides, Shovel Slide or First Turn. I am always impressed by the sheer amount of people on the Glory boot pack at 7AM. Doesn’t anyone sleep around here?
This morning Julie and I decided to park a car at the bottom of the pass (at the end of Old Pass Road) and drive another car to the top. We determined that we would rather hike a shorter distance and get a longer run down to the bottom of the pass instead of just back to our car at the top of the pass. We hiked Chiver’s Ridge, which is on the south side of Teton Pass. Most dawn patrolers go for Glory and so we got the first tracks down Chiver’s. Of course this required breaking the boot pack but the hike is a quarter of the length of the Glory boot pack.
As we suspected, the snow was soft and deep. We floated between the trees with huge grins on our faces. When we got to the bottom we contemplated a second run. And then we looked at the time. Drats! Sometimes work can really be a burden.
When I got home I complained to my husband that I had to go to work. He looked at me like I had two heads. He said “You should be ecstatic right now! You just skied powder. Most of our friends back East won’t get to do what you did today all year.” He was right. I have become the jaded local. Lift lines are always too long, there isn’t enough powder, the run isn’t ever long enough, all of these complaints are totally ridiculous in comparison to what my eastern friends are (or more accurately, aren’t) experiencing. After all, there is always tomorrow. That’s the only draw back to early morning Teton Pass runs. You get a nice taste of skiing powder, but then you have to go to work. I guess that I will just have to put the memory of this morning on repeat until I get to do it again tomorrow.
What do you do when you have to go to work and you want to get a quick work out in? Skin or hike Snow King! To learn more about the Snow King Ski Area visit one of our previous posts or visit their website. Snow King opens at 10AM every day (except Mondays) during the winter season, which means that you can skin or hike up straight up the mountain with your furry friend before work and take turns on untouched groomed snow. Snow King is a steep mountain, so it is hard work, but worth the reward. Most of the time when I skin Snow King it is mainly for the work out.
To skin Snow King when the resort is closed, start out at the base area next to the hockey arena and head up the first pitch. Take a slight left once you get to the top of the first pitch and then follow the tree line up until you hit the cat track. Once you hit the cat track, turn right. This will take you to the top of the Cougar lift, their triple. Once you reach the top of the triple continue left up and around the patrol “shack” and then take a left onto another cat track that will take up through the woods. This cat track switchbacks three more times until you reach the summit of Snow King. This is the way to access the top via skinning when the mountain is closed. When the mountain is open, no dogs are allowed and you must follow this map.
If you don’t have skins and want to hike Snow King, follow the boot pack set on the right hand side of the Exhibition trail under the double summit lift. This boot pack is very steep and direct. You will want to be in good shape if you plan on attempting the boot pack. From the summit there are a lot of great trails to ski. My favorites are Elk, Cougar and Exhibition.
Snow King is also fun to skin after work. Night skiing goes until 7PM so you have to follow the uphill traffic map if you go before 7PM but seeing the town lit up below you is always spectacular. Last night I skinned up Snow King with some friends under the light of a full moon. The view of the Tetons lit up by the moon in the background and the twinkling lights of town in the foreground were breathtaking. It is so great to have a little mountain like Snow King located right in town. I have seen many sunrises and sunsets from that mountain, each more breathtaking than the last. So go skin or hike Snow King! Challenge yourself. You won’t regret it!
2013 was an interesting year. We had a mediocre ski season and a nice long summer. We definitely got out and about this year – checking out the baby animals and enjoying the wildflowers in the spring, climbing the Grand Teton and skiing plenty during the winter.
A Frozen Jackson Lake
This is one of my favorite views when I drive up to Huckleberry Hot Springs during the winter. Jackson Lake is so massive and so beautiful on a blue bird day. Backcountry skiers tour across the lake to reach Mount Moran (as seen by the track across the lake). For directions on how to reach Huckleberry and Polecat Hot Springs check out this blog post.
Skinning Snow King
In the spring after all of the ski areas close one of my favorite activities is to skin up Snow King Mountain during my lunch break. Located in the heart of town, it is very convenient and provides steep continuous runs. When the mountain is closed they allow dogs. Needless to say, it is Canyon’s favorite activity during winter and spring.
One of my favorite things about springtime is the abundance of baby animals. There is nothing more entertaining than watching baby bison play with each other or watching a moose teeter around in a stream, unsure of how to use its fast growing legs. These baby animals can oftentimes be found on Gros Ventres Drive and Antelope Flats Road in Kelly, Wyoming, in Grand Teton National Park, or along the riverbeds of highway 89. Baby animals start making their appearance during the month of May.
I don’t think that Jackson Hole can look any prettier than when it is covered in wildflowers. With fields of balsam root (the yellow colored flower) in the foreground and the majestic Tetons in the background, it is a breathtaking sight. Wildflowers typically bloom between mid-July and mid-August (in the high country). Make sure to drive out Antelope Flats Road in Kelly or pull off on one of the many overlooks on highway 89 to take a moment to appreciate all of the wildflowers.
Climbing the Grand Teton
I think that one of the most memorable experiences I had this year was standing atop of the Grand Teton. It’s almost unfathomable how high you are and the beauty of your surroundings. This photo has Jackson Lake on the right and looks up the North Fork of Cascade Canyon on the left. For more on my trip up the Grand, check out this blog post.
Glassy Rams Head Lake
I love photographing still lakes. The mirrored reflection is always so beautiful. This photo was taken during an early morning ascent of Mount Saint John. While getting up at 5AM isn’t my most favorite thing to do, seeing the alpenglow during sunrise up close and personal never disappoints. Even better, the early morning light on the Rock of the Ages reflected in Rams Head Lake was incredibly gorgeous. The beauty of this area never ceases to amaze me. For details on how to reach Rams Head Lake and the Lake of the Crags read this post. For details on Mount Saint John, check out this post.
Fall Foliage in Grand Teton National Park
Second to wildflower season, my favorite time to photograph Grand Teton National Park is during fall foliage. Peak season only lasts about two weeks at the end of September, so it is fleeting, but well worth the visit!
So there you have it! Our favorite photos from 2013. We are very excited to see what 2014 has to bring us. We hope that you had a wonderful holiday – we certainly did. Here is a photo of the hotel decked out for the holidays. Happy New Year to you and we wish you a safe and exciting 2014!
As a child one of my favorite days of the year was when my family went down to the local nursery and picked out our Christmas tree. My sister and I would scour the rows of trees for the perfect one – asking our father to pick up the trees and twirl them around to ensure that there weren’t any unsightly gaps or holes. When we got home we would store the tree outside for a couple of days before bringing it into the house, tracking pine needles everywhere. Decorating the tree was another treat in itself. My sister and I would fight over who got to hang what ornament, where it was placed on the tree, etc. We had some ornaments, such as a piñata-like clown juggling jingle bells, that were shunned to the back side of the tree, whereas my bell that was given to me for my first Christmas would get prime real estate at the front of the tree. Between hanging ornaments we would gorge ourselves on eggnog and chocolates in front of the fire as Bing Cosby’s White Christmas played.
As you can imagine, when I moved halfway across the country in 2009 I had some high expectations for my first Christmas. I knew that it was going to be different without my family around, but I didn’t imagine that I would be trudging through the wilderness on the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. The Bridger Teton National Forest sells Christmas tree permits for $10 for those who want to cut down their own Christmas tree. The thought of finding your own tree and cutting it down in the wilderness is practically unheard of back in New England (unless you went to a tree farm). My husband and I thought that it would be a fun adventure, so we went down the Jackson Hole Visitor’s Center, picked up a permit, then bought a hand saw and headed towards the Gros Ventres Wilderness (the visitor’s center will provide a map of where you can cut down your tree). We stopped at one of the pull outs and started to trudge around in the snow. Finding the perfect tree was proving harder than we thought it was going to be. Unlike pine trees in New England, the ones native to Jackson aren’t very full. The sparse branches make the tree more akin to a Charlie Brown Christmas tree than the lush full trees that I had growing up.
After about a half an hour trudging around in knee deep snow and inspecting multiple trees, we finally settled on semi-full 8 foot tree. We took turns sawing the tree and then dragged it back to the car. This year we used our chainsaw, which may have been a little overkill but you know boys and their toys.. ;). Other people in the area enjoy cross country skiing or back country skiing to get their Christmas trees. It’s the perfect family outing and a great opportunity to get outside and create some memories. While it is vastly different than the memories I have of my childhood Christmas, it’s fun to create new traditions. I would highly recommend getting a permit and making an adventure of selecting your tree – much more fun than walking up and down the rows of trees at the local nursery.
When the weather takes a turn for the worst and you’re stuck trying to make the most of your vacation the climbing gym is a great place to go. The Enclosure Climbing Gym is located 10 minutes south of the town square and boasts multiple walls with a variety of difficulties from easy 5.4′s that your kids will enjoy to technical 5.11′s that will get your heart and forearms pumping. If top rope climbing isn’t your thing they have a huge bouldering area as well. Lastly, if you are looking to climb a little and then get a good workout in they have a full gym with cardio machines and weights as well. A day pass is $16 for adults, $11 for children (8 – 13) and does not include a harness or climbing shoes. Enclosure rents climbing shoes and harnesses so if you didn’t bring your own gear don’t sweat it! A climbing package is $9 per person and includes a harness, shoes and a chalk bag.
You do need to pass a belay test if you plan on belaying your partner but it only takes a few minutes. The belay devices are auto-locking so if you are new to climbing you should be able to pass the test with a few tries. The gym can handle a crowd pretty well with over 30 different top rope climbs and even more bouldering routes. The also have sport routes if you are experienced and want to practice your lead climbing.
Enclosure is a great place to go if you are looking to kill some time and get an awesome work out. I’m always sore after a session at Enclosure and it’s always fun to return and see how your skills improve over time. I would expect to spend at least two hours exploring the gym and trying to improve your climbing skills. It’s tons of fun and the perfect thing to do when the weather outside is nasty.