These were the 2 days I've been waiting to see since my first ill-fated trip to Jackson Hole in March 1986.
Saturday morning I was with a NASJA group of about 5 and JH snowboarder guide Jason. With another 5 inches new snow underlying crust or moguls were becoming less prominent each day. We skied Paintbrush, Tensleep Bowl and some trees near the Thunder chair, then headed down to take one tram run before lunch. I got separated from the group when I went to switch skis to the Chubbs. For my one tram ride of this trip I skied skier's left of Rendezvous Bowl near the trees (wind and visibility weren't great up there) and then North Hoback, which was already better than my one previous run there back in February 1995.
At 2PM Patrick and I met up with Bob Peters, a 30-year Jackson resident that I met on another forum. For those interested in a local take on the finer points of JH skiing, check out http://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=16592
. By this time the storm had cranked up and it was dumping snow with plenty of fog. Just after we started skiing we crossed a cat track where a lady from Atlanta was nauseated from vertigo. As a former patroller Bob attended to her and called in the patrol to take her down the hill in the meat wagon, while Patrick and I ran a lap in the Thunder trees.
Bob caught up and asked what we wanted, and I requested to maximize powder and minimize bumps or crust underneath it. The next two hours were a blur as we moved among the Bridger gondola and the Thunder and Casper chairs, crossing trails and linking tree stashes. Patrick estimated that 80% of the 10K vertical we skied with Bob were fresh tracks. "Bits and pieces" skiing was what Bob called it. There was one long open powder run on South Colter Ridge with just enough scattered trees around to maintain orientation. Saturday's total was 21,100 with 11K of powder.
The storm continued intensely until about 9PM. My NASJA dine-around in Teton Village was at Cascade, an outstanding restaurant in the ideally located Teton Mountain Lodge that was developed by Rob DesLauriers. He knows his real estate as well as his skiing, as Teton Mountain Lodge is impeccably decorated and the 1BR suites our host showed us after dinner go for $850 a night. Teton Mountain Lodge has 58% year/round occupancy (that means 90% in ski season and 80% in summer) and is considered the second most desirable property in Teton Village after the Four Seasons.
NASJA was bussed over Teton Pass to Targhee on Sunday. I remained in Jackson as I had been to Targhee Wednesday. Patrick arrived from town about 8:30AM and we walked over to the tram and gondola, where the powderhounds were out in force after 11 inches in the past 24 hours and 21 in the past 3 days. We chose the 10-minute gondola line over the 90-minute tram line. At the top Patrick started to retrieve his camera from the backpack that had taken the long slide at Big Sky, so we parted company. I later learned that he had found the best route from gondola to Thunder, a winding traverse and sidestep over a couple of cliff bands to the Cirque, which retained decent powder through most of the day.
Meanwhile I was intent on making a beeline for Thunder and Sublette to get to the Hobacks. Once on Sublette I was lured to return twice by its small to moderate liftline and by the freshies available in Alta 1 and Bivouac. 3rd run into South Hoback ~10:15AM was still sweet. There were lots of tracks but it's so huge that there was plenty of room to make your own for at least 2,000 vertical. Next time up the gondola I went north to Moran Woods. These were fairly chopped up, but at Jackson's water content the chowder skis more like powder and less like Sierra snow that tends to be stiffer once it's tracked. After another lap through Thunder and down lower Sublette Ridge I needed a lunch break about 1PM.
As I came out of lunch I ran into Patrick who had not yet stopped. When we got to the top of the gondola he decided he could use some lunch so we agreed to meet at 3PM for last tram. Patrick arrived 2:55 and I at 3:02 after a run on South Colter. The attendant announced 2 trams in the maze would be allowed to go up, and I calculated that Patrick would make it and I would not. So I hustled out, eventually squeaked onto Sublette chair just before its 3:40 closing, and headed down North Hoback at the edge of the trees. This time I dropped through a small cliff band into Cheyenne Gully and found a traverse out the other side to some intermediate pitched trees that provided the final fresh tracks of the day.
I have mentioned before that I think total vertical + powder vertical is not a bad measure of the quality of a ski day. Sunday 1/29/06 was 31,300 vertical, 12K of powder, only my 12th day lifetime that number has exceeded 40K. And given Jackson Hole's terrain and powder it was a memorable day by anyone's subjective measure.