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Video of crazy windstorm at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on 3-30-2010
Skiing JH Backcountry 1-19-2011:
Jackson Hole Lifestyle Blog for the last half of 2011.
My intent with these blogs is to include reports about some of the activities that my wife and I and our friends love to do. I hope you'll enjoy browsing through these as much as I enjoy putting them together:
The snowpack in the Teton range of northwestern Wyoming was reported as being over 300 percent of normal as of the first of June. The good news on that is that our water supply for fishing, whitewater sports, irrigation, and loads of other water-related activities is absolutely assured for this year. Water is the key to almost every aspect of life in the West, and we never complain about too much of it (we don't complain very loudly, anyway).
The bad news is that there is a gigantic amount of water still up in the mountains waiting to come down as runoff into our streams and rivers. Depending on temperatures and rainstorms, that snow could melt quickly and cause serious and widespread flooding or it could melt more slowly and give us tons of water for a long time. So far, we've been having a slow runoff and we've got our fingers crossed that things continue that way.
The other upside to all that snow is that the skiing is still incredible in the mountains. I love to ski in the spring and summer, and this is shaping up to be an historic year for "post-season" skiing.
Here are some photos from a trip I did with a few friends last Thursday. We rode up the tram at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and skied out of bounds from the top of the mountain. Our route took us down upper Rock Springs Bowl, over to the Green River Saddle, and down Green River Bowl to the very bottom of the mountain.
Here's the group at the top of the tram. Corbet's Cabin is the little warming hut at the top of the mountain and you can see that it's still nearly buried in snow:
This is one of the snowcat drivers. He looked like he was having fun:
Here, we're booting up Paranoia Ridge to get to the Green River Saddle:
This is the payoff for the hike:
Not enjoying herself at all:
Getting a bit gloopy toward the bottom:
The price we had to pay at the bottom for enjoying 4,000 vertical feel of beautiful spring skiing. Totally acceptable price to pay:
Just to top off the day, in the backyard I found the first morel mushrooms of the year:
Springtime in Jackson Hole.
It's funny how things turn out sometimes.
A group of us headed up Teton Pass last Saturday morning. Our intent was to do a relatively easy-going tour over to Edelweiss Bowl to try to catch the morning corn. Edelweiss involves skinning up a couple of pitches, skiing/skinning a lap or two on the bowl, and skinning back up to the car from the bottom of the bowl.
As we drove into the parking area at the top of the Pass, one of our party suddenly remembered that she had left her skins at home where they were drying from the day before. That meant our only option would be to boot up Glory Peak instead of skinning over to Edelweiss, which is a considerably LESS easy-going option. But at least we had options.
We all loaded up and did the boot, arriving at the top of Glory to cloudy skies and a hard wind. For those of you without much spring-skiing experience, cloudy skies pretty much translate into a hard and frozen snow surface instead of the wonderful, just-starting-to-soften-in-the-sun magic that is good corn skiing.
As we stood around trying to decide what to do, another group headed down Glory Bowl. We could hear their skis scraping on the snow surface long after we could see them, so we came up with another option. We would ski/hike north from the top of Glory out to the Great White Hump. From there, we could ski a long gladed ridgeline down to the west or perhaps ski east off the Hump itself.
It takes close to another hour to get to the Hump. Along the way, the clouds simply vanished and by the time we reached the Hump we had a sky so blue you just wanted to rejoice.
That blue sky meant the sun could start working on the east-facing slope below the Hump and THAT meant perfect corn. Here's a very far-off photo of the Great White Hump. Like many photos of the mountains, it's hard to get a feel for the scale involved. Those cornices on the top of the Hump will show up in subsequent photos and you might appreciate the size of this snowfield:
Here's part of the group walking up the south flank of the Hump:
Here's my wife buttering a little freshly-cooked corn:
Dave cruising down with one of those big cornices as a backdrop:
A minor boot up out of that basin and onto the next ridgeline:
Then Karen gets first dibs (other than the photographer) on the next pitch:
But Dave finds the sweet spot:
And finds it succulent indeed:
And Karen savors a post-corn stroll through a mountain meadow:
Our easy-going morning turned into a fairly major tour, but it was well worth it.
The house we live is is in the middle of a mature cottonwood forest. That's pretty nice for shade when full summer comes along (although who knows if we'll see a full summer THIS year), but it also means lots of downed trees and limbs every year. The way we deal with that is to gather up all the dead wood in the spring and pile it up in various places around the property. These are, appropriately enough, known as "burn piles".
Once we get a few piles together and the wood has dried out, it's time to perform our own prescribed burn. Teton County requires us to call the fire department dispatch center to inform them about the burn, we have to have a water source on hand, and we have to put any remaining fires out before sundown so there are no overnight fires.
Once all those ducks are in a row, we go ahead and start the fires. Here's what it looks like when we get one of the piles going:
It's pretty amazing how long it takes to put the piles together and how quickly they burn down to nothing.
We did something really cool this morning. We were swan wranglers!
The Wyoming Wetlands Society is a nonprofit based here in Jackson. Their primary goal is to restore the population of Trumpeter Swans throughout the Rocky Mountains. Here in Jackson, they have a breeding program where pairs of adult swans raise cygnets (baby swans) each year for export to likely habitats around the Rockies.
Each year, the Society has a "roundup" to capture, band, test, and send out breeding-age swans. Instead of using horses to round up cows, this undertaking involves using kayakers to herd swans. Ruthie and I scammed an invitation to be volunteers in today's roundup and it was a fantastic experience.
After you look at my photos, you've really ought to see this brand new video of a pair of swans here in Jackson Hole with three brand new cygnets:
So we showed up this morning at the "swan ponds" about a half-mile from our house. The idea is that a group of kayakers form a moving "wall" to try to herd the swans into a corner of the pond habitat where there's a fenced pen to corral the birds. Apparently this process works really well sometimes and not so well others. I guess swans are easier to herd than cats but quite a bit harder than cows.
So here's Ruthie in her kayak getting ready to help herd the swans. She has no idea what she's doing, of course:
The group heading toward the far end of the pond, swans in view:
The wranglers close in...
The noose tightens:
Resistance is futile. They're in the pen:
These are big birds:
Ruthie holds # K41 while it gets banded. This one is headed for eastern Oregon:
And a family of wild ones does a flyover:
And seem to say to themselves, "Yikes! We don't want any part of THAT operation. Run away! Run away!"...
In the 1930's, there were only 69 wild trumpeters left in the continental United States. Since then, habitat and breeding programs have raised the population to the point where the species is becoming re-established across much of its former range. The Jackson Hole breeding program is releasing around 60 swans per year into wild locations around the Rocky Mountains. The program has been very effective in helping restore swan populations and migration routes throughout the western United States.
We had a wonderful time.
This video was shot, edited, and finished in 7 days this past winter by Dendrite Studios. It was filmed at and around Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia.
It doesn't have any footage that involves Jackson Hole, but I think it's a beautiful film that really captures much of what I find so addictive about skiing. I hope you enjoy it.
I recommend that you watch it on as large a screen with as high a definition as you can:
I don't have any photos, but I went up Glory Peak early this morning. It was the first SUNNY morning we've had in quite awhile and I wanted to check things out. My car's outside temperature reading at the top of the pass at 6:45am was 42 degrees, but the snow was frozen and hard.
I booted up (gasping for breath the whole time because I haven't been doing enough of this stuff) Glory and came to the top in glorious sunshine. I talked briefly to a couple of other guys at the top and then I skied down First Turn. The snow surface has gotten much less smooth since the big rain event we had yesterday, so it was a pretty hard and bouncy ride back down to the highway.
The guys I had seen at the top took the Glory Bowl route down, which is on the sunny side of the divide that early in the morning and I expected that they would have found that the snow had softened a little in the sun. Instead, they had the same conditions I did. Today, you would have had to be skiing an aspect that had some softening to make the skiing fun.
So it now appears that it's pretty much crucial to time any ski outings to coincide with that short window between when the sun hasn't softened the snow at all yet and when it's gotten TOO soft. That makes the day a little harder to predict.
Bears are a fact of life around Jackson Hole.
We don't stress about them too much, because sightings are fairly rare and potentially dangerous encounters are extremely rare. They do happen, however. The Jackson Hole area has both grizzly bears and black bears, and bear sightings along the roadways can cause huge traffic jams and significant cases of viewer stupidity.
The following account, however, is of an actual encounter where a backcountry hiker on the west side of the Teton Range came face to face with a mad grizzly sow who apparently had cubs in the area and felt threatened. It sounds like the hiker did things right. The hiker and the bear(s) survived the encounter.
One lesson to take away from this is that the hiker was on a relatively heavily-traveled trail, so it's important to remember that all the wild animals that live in the Jackson Hole area are, indeed, wild. When we're in the backcountry, we're sharing space with a lot of other critters. Having bear spray with you is an intelligent thing to do if you're hiking in the Tetons. (Knowing how to use the spray is pretty important, too.)
Here is the story from the Jackson Hole Daily News & Guide:
A hiker in Teton Canyon used pepper spray to fended off a reported grizzly bear Sunday, Wyoming Game and Fish officials said Thursday.
Former Colorado resident Chris Laing was hiking about a mile up the north fork of the Teton Creek Trail, the trail that goes to Table Mountain, when “he contacted a reported grizzly bear sow with two cubs of the year,” Wyoming Game and Fish Specialist Mike Boyce said.
The bear was apparently chasing Laing’s dog when it veered off and headed for Laing.
The bear charged three times before being deterred by the spray.
“The bear got as close as five feet,” Boyce said. “He sprayed the bear with bear spray on all three charges and was able to get out of there uninjured.”
Boyce said he thought the man’s dog was a factor in provoking this bear.
“The bear was just ... defending her cubs,” he said.
An investigation of the incident couldn’t confirm the type of bear because of poor tracking conditions, but “the behavior that this bear displayed was confident with aggressive, defensive grizzly bear behavior,” Boyce said.
The Forest Service has since posted warning signs on the trail, but the trail is not closed.
The bear and her cubs were behaving naturally and will not be captured or killed, Boyce said.
“We’re just planning on closely monitoring the situation up there,” he said.
Boyce recommends hiking with at least one other person, making plenty of noise, keeping dogs under control and carrying a defense such as bear spray and knowing how to use it.
“That’s one thing Chris did very well,” Boyce said. “[Bear spray] was effective in this incident. He was able to get out of there without injury.”
Laing’s age and hometown could not be confirmed. He could not be reached for comment by press time.
Grand Targhee opened the Dreamcatcher chair (the one that goes to the top) for summer sightseeing on Saturday, June 25, and they were letting people take skis up. An all-day lift ticket was $20 and you had to sign a release acknowledging that there's no grooming, no ski patrol, unmarked obstacles, weird snow, etc, etc, etc.
I would bet there were close to 200 skiers/riders that showed up, and the skiing was GREAT!
You had to ride up the chair while carrying your skis and there were two plowed roads you had to cross (one at the top and one at the bottom), but other than that you could ski totally top to bottom.
The parking lot was dry but there was lots snow at the base:
The ski hill looked really good:
The scene at the base:
I thought they were opening the chair at 9am, but it turned out it was 10:00. That meant we had about an hour to kill before the lift opened. Luckily, the terrace bar was open, so OF COURSE we had celebratory Bloody Marys while we sat in the sun and waited for the hill to open. Here's Ruthie and I doing a little bit of early drinking (don't do this at home, kids):
Getting off at the top:
Tele kids (one a little older than the others):
Laurent thinks it's fun: