Tales from the Tetons
Having heard for years about the steep slopes and abundant snow of Jackson Hole, I decided it was high time to take a trip to Wyoming. Last month, a couple of friends and I piled in the car and headed Northwest to cowboy country for a weekend of Western adventure.
After nine hours behind the wheel, we arrived in Teton Village, the setting of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR). Wrapping up its winter season with more than 400 inches of snow (December 2003 had the third-highest snowfall ever recorded), JHMR had yet another epic year. By late spring, however, unusually warm March temperatures had prompted major melting.
Despite the lack of powder, we managed to get some memorable skiing in, traipsing down Corbett’s Couloir, the Mushroom Chutes, the Hobacks and other infamous sections of the mountain. “It kind of feels like a tease, though, because there’s still so much other terrain I can see and want to ski, but it’s not open right now,” said my friend Catherine Lutz of the Snowmass Sun. We eyed Cody Bowl from the top of Rendez-Vous Bowl, wishing we had arrived around Christmastime when it was open. We were still able to access some remarkable runs via the Aerial Tram and Bridger Gondola.
After several hours of navigating the resort, we wound up in the Mangy Moose at the base, where an animated apres-ski scene was under way. One immediate observation we made (all of three of us being women) was the ratio ” overwhelmingly in the females’ favor. Most locals contended it’s about 9-to-1, though I’d guess 10.
“It kind of feels like a summer camp for boys up here sometimes,” said Alden Nuse and Brian McGrath. As “executive line guys” at the Cowboy Cafe in Teton Village, Nuse and McGrath saw a lot of visitors come and go throughout the season, most of them men. “It’s still great here, though,” said McGrath. “You can’t beat the terrain. December was awesome.”
“Just be sure and send all of your female friends up here,” noted Nuse. “We’ll take care of them.”
Spread out in several directions, the environs of Jackson Hole include the town of Wilson, where the majority of local outdoor enthusiasts reside; Jackson, the commercial and tourist epicenter and the site of Snow King resort; and Teton Village, where JHMR is located.
A sense of community and a respect for one another seem to be the modus operandi in the valley. Supporting local business, most people wear Jackson-based Cloudveil outdoor clothing, which has grown from a fledgling manufacturer into a pre-eminent designer (Carbondale-based PR Firm Backbone Media and graphic designers Rainy Day Designs have been with them since the beginning).
While we were skiing one morning we noticed a cross-country ski race in progress on the upper flanks of the mountain. The organizer of the fourth annual Randonnee Rally hosted by Life-Link invited us to watch the final competitors traverse below us, before allowing us to ski Corbett’s Couloir, which hovered over the course. When we said we were from Aspen, he compared his event to “a more intense version of the Inferno you have back at Highlands.” He then asked us to say hi to several of his friends on patrol in Aspen.
One thing that was certain about the people in Jackson was that they always seem to be having fun and getting along with their neighbors. From the snowmobilers competing in the Hill Climb competition at Snow King resort to the lift operators proudly displaying their award for “the Golden Loader,” to the extreme athletes who make the Tetons their base for the winter.
“Jackson rips. It’s home,” said Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe, who lives in Wilson with his wife. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
For more information on Jackson Hole, log onto: http://www.jacksonhole.com.
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Warm and dry conditions to start the winter have kept all but the higher elevation slopes free of snow. That is expected to change by the end of the week and the avalanche hazard could start to climb, according to Colorado Avalanche Information Center.