Every April the Grand Teton National Park interior road gets plowed from the Bradley/Taggart Lake trail head to Signal Mountain Lodge. The road is then open to the public to use on foot or by bike or roller blades. The time where you can use the interior road without motor vehicles is very short – this year it is three weeks long, with it opening yesterday (April 8th) and closing to foot traffic (bike paths will be open instead) and opening to motor vehicle traffic on May 1.
If it’s a beautiful sunny weekend expect to see lots of people out using the road. One of my favorite things to do is to pack a picnic lunch or pick up a sandwich from Creekside Deli on the way out of town and bike up to Jenny Lake or if you are motivated – up to String Lake. There is still plenty of snow on the ground off of the road, but you can still trudge to the edge of the lake for a little picnic. If you are a serious road biker, biking the interior road is really fun and you can make it a nice day ride. I would suggest doing an out and back on the interior road since the snowbanks are still quite high on the highway (which normally provides a nice loop option) and the shoulder is rather sandy, which don’t provide for ideal riding conditions.
If you are looking for a hill climb, bike up to the top of Signal Mountain. The narrow windy road to the top is also closed to motorized vehicles and the view of Jackson Lake and the Tetons from the top of the mountain is well worth the effort!
Road running is also really fun on the interior road. I guarantee that it will be one of the most scenic runs that you have ever had. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks though, because none of the visitor buildings are open. Same goes for the toilets – though you will be able to find outhouses at the Bradley/Taggart Lake trail head and at String Lake.
Just because the interior road isn’t open to motor vehicles doesn’t mean that you don’t have to purchase a park pass. It’s possible that they may be manning the gate sporadically, but if there is someone at the gate you do need to pay the entry, which is $25 for a 7 day pass to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. I highly recommend taking a walk, run or bike ride on the Grand Teton National Park road before they open it to motorized vehicles on May 1. It is a unique experience that is so amazing you can’t pass it up!
We have the luxury of having a breathtakingly beautiful National Park in our backyard. Thousands of people explore Grand Teton National Park during the summer months, but during the winter the park becomes rather inaccessible due to the fact that they don’t plow the majority of the park road and you need to have skis or snowshoes to explore it. The road from the South Entrance in Moose is plowed until the Bradley and Taggart Lake trail head. On the north end it is plowed until Signal Mountain Lodge and Flagg Ranch (see A Trip to Polecat Hot Springs for a fun excursion in the north end of the Park). The South end of Grand Teton National Park is a haven for the winter enthusiast – there are lots of backcountry ski objectives, miles of trails for snowshoers and the Park grooms the road for cross country skiers.
I have done a number of different backcountry ski objectives in Grand Teton National Park, but last weekend’s objective was by far the prettiest. My friend Katie and I decided that we were going to sacrifice a long, consistent ski run for breathtaking views on a blue bird day. She suggested that we ski the Delta Lake shots. Delta Lake is one of my favorite lakes in Grand Teton National Park and I’ve hiked to it numerous times during the summer, but I’d never been to it in the winter, let alone ski down to it so we packed up the car and headed to the trail head. The one thing that I don’t like about skinning and skiing in Grand Teton National Park is that there are a bunch of small foothills that you must negotiate between the trail head and the beginning of the mountains. This means that there is some up and down on the skin track, which is one of my pet peeves – I hate having to go down just to go up again.
After the foothills we reached Bradley Lake. The lake, which is frozen for the majority of the winter, provides a gorgeous up and close view of the Teton Range. After the lake, we finally reached the base of the mountains. We skirted around face of the mountains for a little bit and then began our ascent. Thankfully, someone had already put in a skin track. It took us 4 hours of zigging and zagging up the mountain side until we got our first view of the Grand Teton. It was absolutely gorgeous. Until we realized that we were on the wrong ridge. Thankfully there wasn’t a huge depression in the mountain to get to the ridge that we needed to be on. I did protest a little bit as we started downhill towards the correct ridge. After a short uphill we were standing on top of one of the Delta Lake Shots, staring down on Delta Lake. The mountains were silhouetted by a brilliant blue sky. I took about a million photos and then started to take off my skins and prepare for the descent.
After a quick assessment of the snow pack and discussion of where our safe zones were, Katie dropped. I watched as she skied the smooth powder down to the agreed upon safe zone. I dropped after her and met her at the safe zone and then she skied down to the lake and watched from afar as I took my turns in the wide chute. The view from the lake was equally stunning. All I kept thinking was “this is heaven on earth.” I feel so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place! After taking more photos on the lake we skied out of Glacier Gulch and traversed across until we got closer to Bradley Lake. The snow had warmed up under the sun to soft corn. We both laughed giddily as we skied down to Bradley Lake. Once on the lake we put our skins back on and trekked back to the car.
We both agreed that a celebratory beer was in order so we drove to Dornan’s and cheers-ed to our ski tour while admiring the peaks that we were just skiing in. Dornan’s was packed with fellow skiers, all sharing the tales of their ski objectives and trading high fives. It’s a really cool atmosphere and it’s a must if it’s your first time touring in the Park. In fact, I took my Avalanche 1 test at Dornan’s after skiing in the Park for the first time for my avalanche course.
Please note – Backcountry skiing is inherently dangerous and I do not suggest that you try to go for a ski tour in Grand Teton National Park unless you have proper training, gear (beacon, shovel, and probe), are in excellent physical shape and have a good awareness of the area and your objective. With that being said, touring in the Park is an unbelievable experience and I highly recommend it to any serious backcountry enthusiast.
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, (see photo on right) 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!