Jackson Hole Roadtrip
I got my wish. The snow fell, and fell, and fell. Finally, we’ve gotten a break and I can start sleeping again. One more hevay snow warning until tomorrow but the sun and hot temps are predicted for the rest of the week. Over the last 2.5 weeks we the Cottonwoods have received about 13 feet of snow bringing base depths to more than 200 inches at most resorts. So why would I leave a perfectly epic powder week in Utah for Jackson Hole where they have half the base we do?
You might think it was all about the pineapple jalapeno margaritas and the après-ski scene at the Mangy Moose. You’d be partly right. The note from Jackson Hole nearly slipped past me as I breezed through my e-mail inbox last week. There it was reporting 21 inches of new snow in 24 hours. Finally, Jackson Hole, Wyo., was getting filled in. Local reports say they’ve had the driest season in five years.
But, hey, at least they’re open- unlike Bogus Basin, Idaho, which recently closed and sent the scheduled U.S. Freestyle Championships back to Park City Mountain Resort and the Utah Olympic Park. So, we leave. Going to Jackson, however, is like running to the store for milk. It’s an easy four and a half hour drive north.
We left late and arrived in time to catch a few needed winks at my favorite ski-in, ski-out lodge, the Best Western Inn at the Village. I love the place because it’s conveniently located in Teton Village and you get parking; the TVs are huge and the sheets silky soft; they allow pets; and their Vertical bar and restaurant serves the only margarita I have ever craved – the spicy, sweet pineapple jalapeno marg. (I hear the restaurant is tops too.)
I have to be honest; we Utah skiers are waaay too spoiled. After three runs, we were complaining about the conditions at Jackson. Had we not gotten the storm that left Utah with more than three feet of untracked, unbumped powder, we would have thought the skiing at Jackson killer. But, by the time we came off Rendezvous Bowl, we had a packed powder, moguly experience. Bumps everywhere. On the bright side, Jackson has an enviable collection of ripping skiers so the bumps are in the right place.
Of course, I made the stupidest mistake you should never make before leaving home. I had someone new tune my skis. I won’t name names but since my boys Matt and Mark at the Sportsden were out for the day and I desperately needed a baseweld from the rock that snuck up and hit me on the Baldy Traverse at Snowbird, I dropped them at a shop in Park City. The problem with tuning your skis and then leaving town is that when they don’t ski right you can’t take them back to be fixed.
My edges were a mess. The shoprats must have put the skis through the grinder after sharpening the edges because I had the grindpattern in the metal. Thank the planners for putting one of the best repair shops around- Bridger Sports- right at the base of the resort. Jason did a quick re-grind and hand file and I was back out loving my Head Mojos. He also recommended a few secret spots that might spice up our Jackson ski experience. So long as you have beacon, shovel, and probe you’re good to go past any of the backcountry gates.
We headed for the Upper Rock Springs gate and were immediately skiing untracked powder. If it weren’t for the 200 or so ski tour operators in town for the SkiTops convention, we might have found a Jackson Hole Mountain Guide to glide with but instead we were on our own, and soon standing above a shot they call Spacewalk. And it has that name for a reason. After about seven turns down a steep couloir through tracked up, fluffy crud, we peered over a 20-foot rock with no way around it. Mandatory air. I looked at Ryan. “You go first,” I said nervously.
It was big for me. Ryan mentioned something about trying to walk through the ice on the side, I said no way, then he backed up a couple of steps and jumped. The soft landing broke his fall and he yelled, “Yeah!” My turn. “Go straight off, feet together, hands in front, steady your balance, look ahead,” I chanted to myself; and jumped. The adrenaline surged as I sailed and landed. It was soft. Wahoo! Our day was made. Time for Moose Brews and hero stories over a giant plate of nachos at the Mangy Moose followed by margs at the Vertical.
The next day we refueled at the Atrium restaurant in the Snow King Resort hotel. Their $9 buffet breakfast with all the staples completely hit the spot and allowed us to go all day without stopping for lunch. If only we had that guide. Jackson is a tremendous mountain but when it’s all skied up, you need a local’s knowledge and eyes. We wasted half our day stopping to figure out where to go to find good snow without falling off a cliff or dying in an avalanche.
We skied mostly trees on the higher runs as the warm temps had turned the lower terrain into mashed potatoes. As the day waned, runs started to fill in but not soon enough. We had a benefit dinner to attend at Nani’s Pasta House in the town of Jackson. The unique event wasn’t like other sit-down dinners. You go in like you would on any other night but the $30 tab for salad, pasta and tiramisu went to help fund The Refuge – a non-profit org that aids at-risk teens. Instead of some tough chicken and frozen veggies on china you got an Old-World plate of al dente spaghetti and veal meatsauce and met some of the kids benefiting from The Refuge as they helped serve and clear the tables.
With a stomach full of noodles, we made a quick stop at The Liquor Store for ‘real’ beer then headed into the storm. The Utah forecast was calling for multiple feet over the next few days.
Jackson’s closed now but the summer’s are even bigger with Yellowstone National Park in their backyard. For lodging and resort information call the Jackson Hole Central Reservations at 888-838-6606 or the Jackson Hole Chamber at (307) 733-3316.