Posts tagged ‘Jackson Hole’
Grand Teton National Park has numerous trails that take you to the remote reaches of the park. You can find most of them on the trail map that they hand you at the gate to the park or at the Visitor’s Center. However, there are a some trails that the National Park Services has elected to “not maintain” so they aren’t displayed on the map or marked on the trails. Some of my favorite hikes are unmaintained trails because they see little traffic and bring you to extraordinary places.
Delta Lake is one of the hidden gems in Grand Teton National Park. This lake is a brilliant turquoise color and has a staggering backdrop starring Mount Owen. To reach the lake first park at Lupine Meadows trail head. This trail head is very popular as it is the same trail that you use to access the Grand Teton (as well as the Middle and South Tetons and many other peaks). The first mile is a gentle incline and then the trail banks right up a ridge and the serious elevation gain begins. Keep going straight towards Surprise and Amphitheater lakes when you reach the junction with the Valley Trail.
The next 1.5 miles are a series of mostly open switchbacks through fields of wildflowers (when in season, which is late June and early July). Be sure to bring your bear spray as I have had encounters with a mother black bear and her two cubs in this area (last year). Eventually the trail will split and you can go left to reach Garnet Canyon (and the Grand Teton) or right/straight to reach Surprise and Amphitheater lakes. Continue straight/right on the trail. The first switchback after the junction is where you depart from the maintained trail.
Please keep in mind when I say “unmaintained” this means that the trail is not clearly marked (if marked at all) and there may be obstacles in your way that you need to avoid. For example we had to duck under a fallen tree when we visited the lake this past weekend. For Delta Lake I suggest that you have excellent route finding skills as the trail leads you into Glacier Gultch and across numerous boulder fields. As you depart from the trail you will go down a steep hill and then begin your ascent again. Following this trail you will be deposited into the first boulder field. Look for kairns, or small piles of rocks clustered together on top of the boulders, to find the trail. Make sure that you look back frequently from where you came from so that you won’t have an issue finding the main trail upon your return.
The trail continues after the first boulder field, slightly uphill and then enters a massive boulder field. The lake is at the end of the large boulder field and is about 500 feet in elevation gain from when you enter the boulder field. This hike would not be good for those with young children as the boulders are large and hard to negotiate and some of them move so it can be quite dangerous if you aren’t careful. Eventually you will be able to see and/or hear the run off from the lake. Follow the water up to the foot of the lake.
The lake is beautiful so I suggest that you bring a lunch and hang out for awhile. Be sure to bring layers or a warm jacket though. The lake is a glacial lake and the wind tends to funnel through the area so it can be quite windy and a little chilly, even on the warmest of days. I wore a GPS watch when I hiked up to Delta this past weekend so if you want to see the route feel free to check out this page. From my watch I gathered that it was 7.44 miles round trip and 2,400 feet of elevation gain. Of course this will vary depending on what route you take through the boulder field. As I said previously, this lake is a little challenging to find, so make sure that you have good route finding skills and carry extra food and water just in case you get off trail. Lastly, enjoy the scenery and bring your camera! You’ll want to take plenty photos of the lake and the hike so that you can post them on Facebook and make your friends jealous ;)!
There are so many great trails in the Jackson Hole area. There are plenty of loop and out and back run options. One of my favorite places to go trail running is the Cache Creek area. Located on the eastern edge of Jackson, there are plenty of steep and mellow trail running options. They all gain some vertical and some have multiple rises and descents. Hagen trail is one of my favorite running trails because it sees little bike traffic. You can run out on the Hagen trail and then back on the dirt road or if you want to run from town to the trail head you can make this run a longer loop by running Hagen Highway to Sink or Swim back into town. The best map for the Cache Creek trail system can be found here on the Friends of Pathways website.
Another favorite trail run of mine in the Cache Creek area is to run the dirt road and then jump onto the Putt-Putt Trail. This trail has many small hills and short descents. It is very popular with bikers, so if you do decide to run with music on this trail make sure that you keep the volume low and be aware of other trail users. Also, I have run into moose occasionally on the Putt-Putt trail so be aware of your surroundings. The great thing about Putt-Putt and Hagen is there there are a lot of spur trails that connect to the main dirt road every mile or so. This allows you to make your run as long or as short as you’d like. Also, the area is pet friendly so you can bring your dog along for your run.
If you are up for a challenge one of my favorite loops is running from town to Josie’s Ridge trail and then up the ridge to Snow King and then down the face of Snow King. This run is not for the faint of heart. With 1,200 feet of elevation gain it will get your heart pumping. There is no shame in walking up some of the Josie’s Ridge trail. I definitely recommend that you bring water on this run as there are no streams and the ridge doesn’t have much shade. The views on this run are stunning.
Another favorite place for trail runners is Teton Pass. Running Old Pass Road is quite the challenge. The old dirt road ascends steadily to the top of Teton Pass. Many people walk old pass road as well as bike it so be aware of your surroundings. Also, wildlife, including bears have been seen on Teton Pass so pay attention and try to make noise to alert animals of your presence.
Lastly, the Elk Refuge Road, located in the North East corner of the town of Jackson is a nice dirt road with endless mileage. It is an out and back run and has some elevation gain, but not much. It’s great for someone who is looking to avoid pavement but doesn’t want to look out for rocks and roots. The road starts at the end of East Broadway and then continues until there is a split (around mile 4). Go right to Curtis Canyon (and a hill climb) go left to continue to Flat Creek Road. This run provides views of the refuge and the Tetons as well as the Town of Jackson and Snow King Resort . Depending on the season you will see elk in the refuge (they are there in the early Spring or late Fall). Also, big horn sheep frequent the area as well as coyotes and other small animals. Just be courteous to the wildlife and give them their space. You do not want to be charged by a big horn sheep, trust me.
Another great place to run is on the Snake River Levee. The maximum mileage on the east side of the dike is around 4.5 miles and on the west side of the dike is 3 miles. The east side is an out and back with a small loop at the far end. It is a flat dirt road that is popular with walkers and anglers. It borders the Snake River so I would suggest that you run on the east side for breathtaking views of the river and Teton Range.
There are plenty of trails in the greater Jackson Hole area to run on. Just keep in mind, if you do decide to run by yourself make sure that you make lots of noise when you are on Teton Pass or other remote areas further away from town. Also, carry bear spray with you if you want to go for a longer run, or if you are going deeper into the wilderness. Also, be sure to carry some water and snacks if you aren’t familiar with the terrain. Lastly, be sure to enjoy the scenery! Not every run has to be a race to the finish.
Jackson Hole is a mecca of bike paths and beautiful vistas. There are miles of paved paths or dirt if that’s what you prefer. This post is about the best places to go for a road run, I will write about trail running at a later time. For the past two months I have been training for the Jackson Hole Half Marathon on June 8th. The run starts just outside Teton Village and ends at the base of Snow King Mountain in the town of Jackson.
The run takes place primarily on bike paths so I have been running the Moose-Wilson road bike path (find it on this map) a fair amount to familiarize myself with the course. For those who are looking for a short 3 mile run to a long 10+ mile run this bike path is great. It is flat for the most part and provides adequate shade from the mid-day heat. The only part of the path that I consider difficult is what the local’s call “the windy mile.” The windy mile is the last mile before you reach Teton Village. It stretches a wide open plain where there are no trees to provide shade or block the wind. Wyoming is a windy state and this section of the bike path has earned its nickname. Depending on the length of your run the Stilson Parking Lot is a great place to start. You can run to Wilson for a short 3 miler or you can run up to Teton Village for a 13+ mile run. The distance is marked on the pathway so you can keep track of your mileage.
Another one of my favorite pathways to run on is the Jackson to Gros Ventres Road/Grand Teton National Park pathway, identified as the Wapiti Pathway on this map. This pathway starts just north of town by the Dairy Queen. The path borders the National Elk Refuge and is open from May 1 to October 1. This pathway is best run in the morning or late evening when the sun isn’t strong. There is no shade on the path so it can be especially brutal to run on it during the middle of the day. This path is very popular with bikers so be aware of your surroundings during your run. At mile 3 you reach Fish Hatchery Hill, a steady incline of about a half a mile gains you 200 feet of elevation. If you can make it up the hill you will be rewarded with a stunning view of the Tetons. This pathway continues all the way up to Grand Teton National Park, so you can make your run as long as you want. Just keep in mind that after Fish Hatchery Hill the path tends to be very windy. Also, the pathway runs parallel to Highway 89, a one lane road that tends to see a lot of traffic. If you are looking for serenity this might not be the path for you.
Both pathways provide great out and back run options. Unfortunately, there aren’t many great loop options in the Jackson area. Either way, these pathways provide a great alternative to running on a treadmill. Be sure to try them out when you are in Jackson Hole.
Every year April Fools Day brings an onslaught of harmless pranks and tomfoolery across the US. In the “peter pan” town of Jackson Hole, where every resident refuses to grow up, it is only natural that its residents take April Fools Day to a whole other level. At Jackson Hole Mountain Resort the locals descend on to the hill in bright neon onesies, jeans, rear entry boots and snow blades. While we appreciate the skiers who visit our valley, sometime their attire is downright hilarious. Some people feel like if you go skiing once a year, why invest in a good ski jacket and pants? Why not just use an one piece that you bought in the 90s, or a pair stretch pants from the 80s? So in turn, us locals dress up like those visitors. While this day may seem like a jab to our visitors, it really presents an opportunity to escape the rad bro get ups and just have some good old fashion (literally) fun.
The term gaper is derived from the gap present between the goggles and hat or helmet. Unfortunately, this feature is indicative of an individual who rarely skis or who is learning how to ski. It may seem a bit pretentious, but Gaper Day is all about having fun. You get to ski in a pizza, mess around in the lift line and laugh at yourself and others, a lot. The best way to witness this spectacle is to head to the “Thunder Bumps” on the Thunder trail located under the Thunder chairlift. By mid day there will be a party at the top of the trail, people eject out of their skis and drink beers while watching fellow gapers do tricks off of a small jump. To get a taste of what you’re in for check this video out (fast forward to 2:30 if you want to see people skiing off of the jump). Ultimately, gaper day is about having a good time.
After the mountain closes, head to the base in front of the tram. The ridiculousness continues off the hill and into the evening.
As with anything in the ski industry, there is no shortage of alcohol involved, so make sure you partake responsibly. Skiing intoxicated can be quite dangerous. Thanks to the amount of hotels, restaurants and bars who own property in the area the liquor laws extend to the base area. You can walk around with an open container from anywhere, the liquor store, a bar, your backpack, etc. without getting in trouble. Though I will caution you, make sure that if you do drink, DO NOT DRIVE. Take the START Bus. The police are aware of gaper day and they tend to increase their presence on the road. Above all, go have a good time and dress appropriately!
You have decided to come to Jackson Hole with your hunny to celebrate your anniversary or to just get away from it all. Most likely one night you may want to have a romantic dinner, something more than your average pizza and beer dinner date. There are plenty of wonderful places to take your loved one out to eat in Jackson, it just depends on how much money you want to spend.
Last year, Jared and I decided to forgo the typical anniversary gifts and treat ourselves to a nice romantic dinner. We initially wanted to have it at the Snake River Grill but we waited too long so we couldn’t get a reservation on the night of our anniversary. We decided to try something new, the Wild Sage which is located in the Rusty Parrot Lodge, a few blocks from the town square in downtown Jackson. The Wild Sage is Jackson’s only restaurant to receive the AAA Four Diamond award but I think that it is a tie between Amangani and the Wild Sage for the most expensive restaurant in town. While expensive, the food and ambiance is worth it. The restaurant is small – think 40 people max and the rustic decor, fireplace and open concept kitchen make for an intimate setting. We were seated by the window where we could watch the cars drive by and the snow fall. The food was melt in your mouth delicious and the cocktails and wine were a delightful addition to our meal. Our reservations were for 6pm and we stayed until 9pm just sipping our after dinner drinks and talking about our upcoming nuptials. We didn’t feel like we were pressured to leave and the staff was very professional and welcoming.
Possibly my favorite restaurant in town, I love the ambiance that the Grill exudes. Its log cabin interior and center fireplace make this one of my favorite places for a romantic date. The first time that I went to the Grill was when Jared took me there for my birthday and we got a corner booth. Our date was intimate and exciting – their menu boasts an array of unique tapas as well as wild game and fresh fish. They have an extensive wine list as well as some specialty cocktails. The Snake River Grill is also a good place to bring a group to celebrate a birthday or graduation. To this day I still dream about the rare filet of beef that I had for my birthday, years ago. I could cut it with my fork – needless to say, I was in heaven.
Without a doubt the best thing about the Granary is the stunning mountain view. Situated on a butte high above the valley of Jackson Hole, the Granary is part of Spring Creek Ranch. The dining rooms is a little outdated but the large picture windows with a sweeping vista mask that fact. The food is good but not as good as the previously mentioned restaurants. The thing that I remember most from my dinner at the Granary is the sun setting behind the mountains. I encourage you to go early during the winter months (think 6pm reservations) and later during the summer months (think 7 or 7:30) to catch the sunset. While the dinner at the Granary is good, the breakfast is wonderful. I especially love their trout and eggs dish. If you are looking for a cheaper romantic dinner try the lounge at the Granary. Sit at the bar or by the crackling fire and enjoy the same breath taking view with a more economical bar menu. The portions aren’t huge but the bar does offer nightly specials such a $4.50 well drinks, $.40 wings, cheap quesadillas and half of glasses of wine depending on the night. The also have a piano player semi-nightly in the lounge area which adds to the romantic ambiance.
Located at the top of the Gondola at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the Coulior has a refined atmosphere with a stunning view of the valley below. One of my favorite things about having dinner at the Coulior is the romantic Gondola ride that you take to reach the restaurant. Be sure to ask for a seat by the window when reserving your table, though if your reservation is anytime after 6pm and you have more than 2 in your party it is almost impossible to get one of those tables. The food is delicious, but it is an all inclusive menu, so if you aren’t willing to pay $95 per person for the entire meal (not including drinks) I would urge you to look elsewhere. During the Spring and Fall Coulior will do a 2 for 1 dinner special for season passholders so if you are a passholder be sure that you are on Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s email list so that you get the heads up when they are offering the 2 for 1s. The food is delicious and the four course meal leaves you satisfied, not stuffed.
Obviously you can have romantic dinners at restaurants that aren’t overly expensive. The options above all offer entrees in the range of $18 to $60. I have had plenty of dates at the Rendezvous Bistro, which is one of my favorite restaurants in town. The Bistro can be a bit loud but you can still carry on a conversation with your sweetheart without having to yell over the table. Another option is Trio, a small restaurant located a block from the town square in downtown Jackson. Trio has a variety of options ranging from pizza to buffalo rib eye and braised short ribs. There are plenty of great restaurants in Jackson so there is no need to limit yourself to this list. Also, please keep in mind that these are restaurants where I have dined and I have not had the opportunity to eat at all of the nice restaurants in Jackson (though I wish that I could!). I hope that you enjoy your romantic dinner wherever you end up!
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a relatively small ski resort by western standards. No matter where you are on the mountain you can access the base area in 20 minutes or so. However, on weekends, when the lines in the base area are long, sometimes it is nice to eat lunch up on the mountain. I grew up brown bagging it in New England – my dad would bring a backpack full of sandwiches, chips and cookies up to the top of the Cannon tram and stash it in the corner of the cafeteria. But these days I find myself either stashing a Cliff bar in my ski pants to stave off my hunger until Apres Ski or wandering into one of the three on mountain dining establishments. Each eatery has different types of food and a different vibe.
Located at the top of the tram, it is by far the most scenic on mountain dining option (Couloir is a close second). It also has the most character, located in a small cabin that was built at the 60s, it has pieces of history pinned on the walls and it shares it’s space with the Jackson Hole Ski Patrol. There are not many tables in the cabin so be sure to be one of the first ones off the tram to nab a table. Corbet’s Cabin’s specialty is made to order waffles. They also have an array of snack bars, sports drinks, beer and sweets, but you really go to Corbet’s for their waffles. The have four different types of waffles: brown sugar and butter, strawberry jam and cream cheese, nutella and new this year, peanut butter and bacon. I have yet to try the PB and bacon waffle, though it sounds delicious. They serve the waffles sandwich style wrapped in tin foil. Corbet’s Cabin is a great place to go for breakfast or a midday snack.
Top of the Gondola – Rendezvous and Headwall Pizza, Couloir and Dog House
Located upstairs next to the Couloir, Rendezvous is my favorite place to eat on the mountain. It is easy to access if you are skiing Thunder, Sublette or the Tram via the Marmot lift or you may reach it by taking the Gondola. It can get pretty crowded from noon to 2 so be sure to stake out a table before getting your food. My favorite item at Rendezvous is their Vietnamese Pho. The large noodle bowl is packed with veggies and meat or tofu and filled with a mushroom broth. They are made to order so if you have an aversion to jalapenos, like me, you can ask them to make the soup without. The bowls are large enough to split between two average people or one very hungry individual. Rendezvous also has a delicious salad bar, soup station and grill and sandwich station.
Coulior offers sit down dining for the refined skier who is not in a rush to get back out on the slopes. Headwall Pizza and Dog House is a good place to eat cheaply or grab some grub to eat on the fly (say, on a powder day).
Located next to the Casper chair, the Casper Restaurant can handle a crowd. There are picnic tables outside that you can use on nice sunny days, a fireplace with two couches for those who are looking to sit back and relax as well as multiple tables on the first and second level of the building. They have a grill, soup station and their specialty, Mexican fare. I enjoy their burritos, either pork, beef or vegetarian. The burritos are large enough to share or can be devoured by one hungry individual. To avoid the notorious brick in the stomach feeling I normally split the burrito with a friend. Casper is also the only on mountain cafeteria with a full bar (Couloir also has a full bar). They have wonderful specialty drinks as well as delicious jello shots. Please see my previous blog about apres ski at Casper for details on their drink selection.
So there you have it – each one of Jackson Hole’s on-mountain dining options are unique so you can choose which restaurant best suits your needs. Some days I crave Pho, other days a burrito. Most days I crave a waffle, but I have a sweet tooth so that’s no surprise! Hopefully you get to experience all of the on-mountain dining options so that you may decide for yourself which restaurants are your favorites.
Also, as a side note – I do not believe that brown bagging is banned from any of the on-mountain dining options, but I am not positive. Just be courteous and aware of the situation.
Fondly referred to as “the King,” Snow King Resort is a small little mountain located in downtown Jackson Hole. The first time I visited Jackson Hole I hardly noticed the mountain. Small, by western standards, at only 400 acres and 1571 vertical feet. However, Snow King is a great family mountain. Its steep, long runs also attract many ski racers – from high school race teams to the US Ski Team – who compete winter-long on it’s slopes.
The King offers cheap night skiing as well as snow tubing. As you head from the airport to the town of Jackson Snow King, with it’s 3 lifts and wide trails is unmistakable. It is a great place to go and let your kids explore by themselves while you sit in the lodge with a hot chocolate, watching your kids ski from the big picture windows in the lodge. It is a casual mountain, don’t expect anything fancy! But the mountain has heart.
During the early winter months the King barely sees the sun due to it’s north facing aspect. On chilly January days I pity those on the hill because they must be freezing their toes off! The spring months bring events such as Pond Skimming and the World Championship Hill Climb. These events are really fun to watch and are family friendly events.
Since Snow King Mountain is municipally owned, the public can hike or skin up the mountain at any time, even when it’s open! Though there is an etiquette to hiking and skinning the King when it is open so do some research before just strapping on your ski and skins and climbing up the main trail. You don’t want to be hit by a skier!
Many locals consider Snow King Resort “the town gym.” I am one of those people. During the summer I try to hike up it at least one time a week, if not more. During the winter I like to skin up it in the morning before work. The best thing about it? I can bring my dog, Canyon. He loves to romp around in the snow, getting twice the work out that I do, running up and downhill numerous times. I have witnessed many beautiful sunrises from the mountain during the summer and winter alike.
I would encourage you to give the King a chance. If you are on a budget and looking to ski some steep groomers or narrow trees, spend a day at the King. Or if you are looking for something to do in the evening, try night skiing or tubing. The King has a lot to offer and is a vital part of the Jackson Hole community.
This winter Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has introduced a new “all blue” section of the mountain. Casper has always been a popular area of the mountain for the intermediate skier to visit, however, the triple chair that took you to the top of the area was painstakingly slow. Also, the seat of the chair did not have any cushion so your feet would often fall asleep on the ride up.
This past summer Jackson Hole Mountain Resort replaced the triple with a high speed quad, and boy the new chair is fast! Some skiers complain that the don’t have time to chat on the lift because by the time you get into a conversation you are already unloading. While the speed is great for getting a lot of runs in, it also dumps a lot more skiers onto the hill. Unfortunately, Jackson Hole didn’t think about the amount of traffic that would be frequenting the area.
It can be crowded on the hill, but this past summer they created a new trail that comes down the face of Casper, underneath the lift. They also mellowed out the terrain and did some summer grooming, which makes Casper the perfect place for the beginner skier to try to advance their skills. It is the step up after learning how to ski on Teewinot, the beginner lift.
Casper also has a lodge where you can grab a bite to eat or sit on the deck in the spring and drink margaritas. It is convenient for the beginner or intermediate skier who wants to take a few runs and then take a break, without having to head all the way down to the base.
As much as Casper can be a great place to advance your ski or snowboard skills, be aware of others. The trails are wide but crowded. Always look over your shoulder before deciding to cut across the trail. Also, at the bottom it gets congested where all of the trails funnel into one and there are people trying to cut across the trail to get to the Casper Lodge. Getting injured by colliding with another skier or rider isn’t fun, trust me. The way to avoid this is to always be aware of your surroundings and ski in control.
In addition, for those who enjoy skiing really fast, I don’t recommend that you ski Casper. Ski patrol has been adamant in keeping Casper a learning area and they will not tolerate advanced skiers zipping by learners. They have made appearances with radar guns and will pull you over and give you a ticket (a small fine) if they catch you “speeding.”
Casper is a great addition to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. It adds a buffer between Teewinot and Apres Vous ski areas for new skiers and riders. The high speed quad will take your breath away and the wide open trails are great for taking smooth turns down. Also, all of the trails at Casper, besides the Moran Woods, are groomed. If you want to see if you are up to tackling ungroomed glades the Moran Woods can be a lot of fun. Jackson Hole is trying to soften their intimidating “all expert” mountain image and I think that the new “all blue” Casper is definitely a step towards that.
2012 was an interesting year. With low snowfall we had the worst, most dangerous (avalanche-wise) winter in years. Due to the low snowfall we had a horrendous wildfire season, which shrouded the Jackson Hole area in smoke from mid-August to October. Snow came late in the fall, extending the fire season until late October. Although, we could have received better weather in Jackson, 2012 it was still a great year. Below are our favorite photos from 2012, we hope that you enjoy them.
Spring Skiing on Jackson Peak
After a season of questionable snow, Julie Weinberger enjoys some spring skiing on Jackson Peak, located in the Gros Ventres Range. Jackson Peak is accessed by a long backcountry tour and is a popular spring objective once the road up to Curtis Canyon is cleared of snow.
Sleeping Indian has been one of my hiking objectives since I moved to Jackson back in the fall of 2009. As seen from the valley, Sheep Mountain looks like an Indian sleeping peacefully in the middle of the Gros Ventres range. A hike up the belly provides sweeping views of the Tetons and the valley below.
My first time canoeing in the Jackson Hole area, we took our canoes out to Leigh Lake. With a short 5 minute portage from String Lake in Grand Teton National Park it was entirely worth the effort to see the mountains jut straight up from the shores of the lake.
This summer we were going to experience a rare solar eclipse. Unfortunately, there was substantial cloud cover so we only got a glimpse of the eclipse, but while waiting for the eclipse to occur I snapped this photo.
During this fall I decided to take a trip up to the Snake River Overlook, where Ansel Adams snapped his famed photo of the Tetons many decades ago. Clearly things have changed since then, but I was delighted by the foliage and treated to a beautiful pink sunrise.
Top of the World – Teewinot
Jackson Hole is an adventurer’s playground. This photo from my hike up Teewinot this past fall shows how small we are in comparison to the mountains that we are surrounded by. Jackson offers many challenging hikes and climbs as well as a variety of other activities, such as whitewater rafting, horseback riding and mountain biking.
Big Dipper Above the Tetons
The star gazing in Jackson Hole is incredible. Just take a drive a few miles out of the Town of Jackson and a whole new astronomical world unveils itself. Having grown up in New England where light pollution dominates the sky, I have a new found appreciation for starry nights. This photo was taken by the light of a full moon, which cast a daylight-like glow on the Tetons. If you look closely (click to enlarge) you can see the Big Dipper outlined above the Tetons.
This winter I have been very active early in the morning. Expeditions on Teton Pass before work have become a commonality. Due to this new trend I have experienced many beautiful sunrises. It really makes you feel grateful to live in such a beautiful place.
We hope that you have a happy and healthy 2013! We appreciate all of your support that you have given us over the years – whether it has been liking or following our blog posts or staying with us here in Jackson Hole, we appreciate everything that you do for us! We hope to see you here in Jackson Hole sometime soon so you can experience all the wonderful things that we blog about. Cheers to 2013!
I took my avalanche level 1 certification class my first winter here in Jackson, 4 years ago. I was the only female out of 20 classmates. It didn’t bother me, I was used to playing with the boys. However, it is sometimes preferential for me to backcountry ski with women. They don’t push my skiing ability like the boys do (sorry gals) but it is nice to enjoy the hike or skin – it’s not a race to the top.
Last night I went to an all female avalanche awareness night, sponsored by She Jumps. A lot of girls showed up to learn about safety in the backcountry and express their interest in becoming backcountry skiers. So what’s the allure when there is lift access at incredible mountains like Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or Grand Targhee? Why risk skiing out of bounds or in the backcountry?
After 4 years of skiing in the backcountry it really just hit me this past week when my friend and I had an especially tense ski episode in the backcountry. The snow pack wasn’t very stable and my friend got the snow to collapse (or whomp) underneath him when he was traversing just above a cliff ban. We spent about 10 minutes evaluating the snow pack and determining how we were going to get ourselves out of an area that we really didn’t want to be in.
Once we were safe back at the car I realized that we put ourselves at risk every time we go into the backcountry and to the backcountry skier, that skiing in backcountry terrain was worth risking your life for. Last winter was a clear example of that. There were multiple well respected backcountry skiers who died in avalanches last year. I’m not saying that I value skiing untracked powder over my life, every time I ski in the backcountry I am constantly evaluating the snow pack, weather, and data from the avalanche report. I am merely acknowledging the risk. I am more likely to die in an avalanche than someone who is a resort skier.
So what is the allure of backcountry skiing? The fresh untracked powder for one. That would be enough for me. However, I also enjoy spending time in the mountains on the ascent. Being with a friend or two, enjoying the quiet stillness and seeing the familiar landscape blanked in white snow. You see things differently. The woods that you thought you knew take on new meaning – the perfect glade run. Or the canyon that you enjoyed hiking in all summer becomes a scary terrain trap where avalanches can release on the slopes above you and bury you underneath feet of debris in the canyon. Yet winter allows you to freely to explore the terrain without sticking to established trails. Grand Teton National Park becomes unfamiliar as you ascend mountains where there are no trails during the summer months.
When you travel in the backcountry during the winter you need to constantly be thinking about the terrain that you are traveling through and be ready to have a back up plan for your descent. A good knowledge of the snow pack as well as a keen awareness of the terrain is essential if you decide to venture into the backcountry. Don’t just follow someones ski tracks because you don’t know how experienced they are or what their ski objective is.
Over the years backcountry skiing has become more popular and technology has become more advanced. However, remember just because you have an airbag pack doesn’t mean that you are invincible and shouldn’t get your avi 1 (avalanche level 1 certification). Education provides a solid foundation for safe backcountry travel
Also, don’t forget about the human factor. Many uneducated and inexperienced backcountry skiers and riders follow friends into the backcountry or sidecountry at the resort and don’t speak up when they feel uncomfortable. Do yourself a favor and spend the money to get educated if you are interested in skiing out of bounds. Knowing how to use your beacon properly as well as being able to evaluate the snow pack, terrain and weather are invaluable tools that an avalanche education will provide.
There are plenty of classes in Jackson Hole. If you are visiting Jackson and think that you want to get into backcountry skiing try to plan your visit to overlap with an avalanche class. The classes are 3 days and typically consist of 1 classroom day and 2 days in the “field. Not only will you get educated but you will get to play in the field out on Teton Pass and in Grand Teton National Park. You will learn where to go so that you can confidently ski Teton Pass or GTNP without blindly following someones tracks. Here are some of the companies in Jackson Hole that offer Avalanche Level 1, 2 and 3 courses:
If you are interested in skiing the sidecountry or backcountry on vacation and don’t want to get certified, I suggest that you hire a guide. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers guides for sidecountry and backcountry skiing and both Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and Exum Mountain Guides offers guided tours in the region (Teton Pass and Grand Teton National Park).
Either way, backcountry skiing is a ton of fun, just make sure that you get properly educated so that you may ski and travel safely. Also make sure that you always go out with a partner and someone that you trust. Experiences in the backcountry will strengthen your friendships and relationships. Just make sure that you feel comfortable talking with your backcountry partners about the snow pack and what makes you nervous or comfortable and why. Above all, stay safe, ski some powder and end your day exhausted but with a grin on your face because you earned your turns (and that beer!).