The snow gods, like all gods, are petty and capricious. They smile upon you one day and cruelly pull the rug out the next. It takes two days to get across Oregon and Idaho and into Wyoming. The forecast said Jackson Hole Mountain Resort would get steady snowfall from Thursday through the weekend. We were there and ready to shred the pow but the storm petered out somewhere over the Tetons.
Friday was our first day on the mountain and we woke to a report of trace amounts of snow. We got to the ski park early enough to be part of the first wave on the Aerial Tram and that put us on the summit minutes after opening. It climbs 4,139 feet from the base! It was overcast and blustery up top and the skiing was hard going on a slick surface. We explored the upper runs only as the lower runs were mostly closed due to lack of coverage. Locals had advised us to focus on the terrain around the Sublette Quad Chair but it was on wind hold and we had to try other places. Visibility was poor in the flat light and many of the un-groomed slopes were over-populated with moguls and icy patches.
It was a disappointing day. My buddy and I are often our own worst enemies as we are both condition snobs. We like freshly-fallen snow and live to ski the powder. That kind of skiing is both more relaxing and more exhilarating at the same time. The harder surfaces require more attention and more effort. Nonetheless we appreciated being at a new place and we made sure to explore and gain a modicum of familiarity. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort takes up four square miles (about 2,500 acres) and is thus ten times larger than either of our local hills!
Saturday we again woke to a report of trace amounts of snowfall and we watched the webcam for a few hours thinking the storm might arrive later in the day and we could go up in the afternoon to catch the fresh stuff. We gave up after lunch. That evening it snowed lightly in the town of Jackson and we figured there would be accumulations at the higher elevations the next morning.
Sure enough the morning report said two new inches and, sticking to our pattern, we hustled up there early to beat the holiday crowds and were rewarded again with “first tram.” This time it was crystal clear and without a hint of wind and we hurried off the tram and on to the slopes of Rendezvous Peak. We caught some soft turns immediately in the bowl and worked our way over to a nice patch of tree-skiing on our way to the now-open Sublette. We were able to find many nice stretches of fun skiing. We estimated they actually got closer to four inches on the upper third of the mountain. We did our best to make the most of it.
The views across Jackson Hole and to the Gros Ventre range were stunningly beautiful. The air was delightfully cold and refreshing and we worked our way through Tensleep Bowl, Laramie Bowl, the Cirque, and the Amphitheater. We were stoked as the snow skied deeper than it actually was and we pushed ourselves hard. It was crowded and got more crowded as the day went on but we found it easy to get around and didn’t experience too much waiting in the lift lines. We stopped for a beer at the Gondola Summit (9,095 feet) and were rewarded again with breathtaking vistas. The resort sits at the southern edge of the Grand Tetons and everywhere you look there are jagged, rocky peaks and snow-mantled forests not to mention the huge high valley that is Jackson Hole itself.
Everywhere we went on the mountain or in town we met friendly people whether they were residents or fellow tourists. There’s a relaxed, open vibe and everyone is cheerful and happy. Who wouldn’t be in such an alpine paradise? We stood in line with people from Switzerland and sat on the chair with folks from Down Under as well as people from all over the States. Many shared stories similar to ours— no snow back home and chasing a weather forecast with the hope of catching the elusive freshies.
The journey home was long and tiring but we made it safe and sound. The math on the trip wasn’t ideal: four days of driving for two days of skiing and only one of those good. But we were thrilled to have bluebird conditions on that one great day and it made the entire expedition worthwhile. All we want to do in the winter is ski and the snow gods are mocking us mercilessly with these drought conditions. But we got to ski and we got to ski at a spectacular place and we had good times in a happening resort town to boot.
The forecasts don’t look much better for the new year, and it will take some time before any of the resorts we want to visit get sufficient base to open all their terrain. But we managed to use our skis twice in the waning days of 2017 which was our goal. We’ll have to figure out some better means of propitiation for these indifferent deities. Any suggestions?