February 17, 2015
Having been a two-planker (skier) since age 10 and a knuckle-dragger (snowboarder) since high school, I have had the opportunity to experience many of our country’s mountains, but Jackson Hole, Wyoming is by far my favorite.
It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m an adrenaline junkie and this mountain doesn’t have just your standard double black diamond runs. Just to give you an idea of the terrain, Jackson’s single black diamond runs are more like the double blacks you will find elsewhere in the Rockies. Chairlifts to these areas carry written warnings in their loading areas noting you could get lost, injured, or die.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, and you want to stay "in-bounds" (the area where ski patrol does avalanche control and will rescue you if you are injured), you can take the aerial tram up to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. On your way up, you’ll have a front row seat to watching people drop into Corbet’s Couloir ‐ one of the most iconic double black runs. Depending on snowpack levels, the drop can be between 10-40ft on average with canyon walls soaring on either side of the chute.
If off-piste is more your style, Jackson is renowned for its easy access to the backcountry. For those who don’t mind boot-packing it up a steep climb to get there, take the access gate at the top of Headwall. If you’d like a bit more leisurely climb there are access gates to the right of Cody Bowl or off the back of Rendezvous. But before you go, make sure you are prepared. That means making sure both you and the people in your group are trained in how to test for avalanche conditions and how to use the rescue equipment you carry with you. Backcountry areas are not covered by the ski patrol and slopes may slide if conditions are right. MOST PEOPLE THAT DIE IN AVALANCHES TRIGGER THEIR OWN DEATHS.
Here’s a quick list of backcountry essentials every person in the group should have: avalanche transceiver, collapsible shovel, collapsible pole, and water. Having been a ski patroller and avalanche instructor I’ve found the easiest transceiver to learn and use is by Backcountry Access, and you can even get it in a kit with the pole and shovel included: BCA Tracker DTS Rescue Package 2015. Once down, the traverse to get back to Teton Village is quite flat so you’ll definitely want water and probably a snack to keep your energy up.
My next post will talk about apres-ski activities and where to stay in Jackson ‐ stay tuned!