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Video of crazy windstorm at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on 3-30-2010
Skiing JH Backcountry 1-19-2011:
This section of my online guide to skiing Jackson Hole will concentrate on the steeper skiing around the mountain. I also have an online guide that's geared more for the easier skiing at Jackson Hole, so please visit that if you'd like.
First off, it goes without saying that “steep” is a relative term. You have objective measurements like degrees of pitch, of course, but you also have variables like snow conditions, width of the line, visibility, consequences of a fall, etc. These variables can transform a relatively benign slope into a real sphincter-tightener.
Having said that, a few of our super-skiers will likely scoff at my definitions of steep, but I’m just describing some of the runs and lines inside the Jackson Hole Ski Resort that have a little more “sport” to them.
I've been asked why I don't include some directions to the out-of-bounds skiing at our resort. I don't add any because skiing outside the boundaries is a completely different undertaking when compared with inbounds skiing. There are avalanches, cliffs, confusing drainages, blind dropoffs, etc. There are no ski patrollers and no snow safety work is done out of bounds. Skiing out of bounds here (or anywhere else for that matter) is something that should not be taken lightly. If you have the training and the gear and the partners to safely go out of bounds, we have some of the best anywhere. If you lack those prerequisites, we have an outstanding Alpine Guide program that can introduce you to backcountry skiing.
Finally, much of the joy of skiing Jackson Hole comes from the sense of adventure you get from wandering around our mountain. This is a ski area with an almost endless variety of pitch, exposure, elevation, and wind effects. Most of the mountain is exactly the way God dropped it from the sky – no run cuts, no grading, very little summer grooming, no civilizing. It’s just mountain terrain with snow on top of it. You get whatever you get.
My favorite term for exploring a ski area is “clucking around”. You occasionally find great skiing lines and good snow, but you also often pay the price in the form of really, really bad skiing. Just because I’ll give some suggestions about good places to hit on this mountain, don’t rule out clucking around. It can provide you with some of your most memorable skiing ever and Jackson Hole is the perfect place to do it.
I want to repeat one section from the other guide as far as being prepared for our mountain:
Preparation is everything. JH is a huge, rugged mountain in an alpine environment. There is plenty of easy skiing here, but if you’re prepared for bad weather you’ll enjoy your visit much more. You want good goggles, waterproof/breathable shells, multiple layers of synthetic garments, good gloves, and even a neck gaiter. You may not use much of that, but you’ll be glad you have it if you need it.
Also, mid-fat and fat skis are the common choice here. If it snows during your trip (we all hope), wider skis will make life easier for you if you’re skiing the endless variety of terrain and conditions we have. I love using my slalom race skis all over this mountain, but if it snows those skis don’t come out again for a few days. There are several good ski shops in Teton Village or the town of Jackson where you can demo/rent skis that work well on this mountain.
So, let’s head for Teton Village and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Without further ado, here are some of the places I would suggest off various lifts. First of all, here's the Jackson Home Mountain Resort trail map:
Here's the online version of the trail map from the JHMR official website. If you experiment with clicks and double clicks, you'll find that you can enlarge specific spots and trails. And here's a map of the base area at Teton Village.
The three most important landmarks for you to look for are the base of the aerial tram (aka the Tram Building or the Clock Tower), the base of the Bridger Gondola, and the base of the Teewinot Chair.
Let's start at the right side of our mountain as you stand at the base looking up. That right-hand boundary is known as Apres Vous mountain and that's where we'll go first on this little guide:
Apres Vous Chair
You ride up the Teewinot Chair and exit right at the top. Just below you will be the loading station for the Apres Vous chair. This is a real sleeper. It attracts mostly intermediate skiers, and for good reasons. It’s a high-speed chair that accesses great groomed runs. Off to the north of the chair, however, is Saratoga Bowl. “Toga” used to be strictly out of bounds but is now quasi-inbounds skiing.
To ski Saratoga, you'll exit right at the top of the chair. The entrance to Saratoga is just below and to the skier's left of the patrol shack near the unloading station of the chair. If you watch for the cell phone tree to the right as you're nearing the top of the chair, you'll have a good idea where to go. The main entrance to Saratoga is just below the cell phone "tree".
Saratoga is a wild jumble of small cliffs, rock gardens, trees, and little chutelets. There’s almost nowhere that will give you a long, sustained fall-line pitch but part of the fun is stringing together little goofball shots. You can traverse a long ways skier’s left, but as you do you’re giving up vertical and you’ll have to start traversing back to the right to make it back to the base of the Apres Vous chair. I prefer to stay kind of along the boundary between St. John’s run (just north of the chair) and Saratoga Bowl.
Saratoga will give you lots of varied terrain. Also, you’ll be able to make laps quicker than just about anywhere on the mountain. Give it a shot.
Another sort of unnamed area off Apres Vous that’s worth checking out is below the Togwotee Pass traverse that leads from Moran Run to the Casper Chair. Just after you leave Moran run, you’ll pass an open gladed area below the traverse. It isn’t steep, but it’s got some fun little terrain features. You’ll only make about thirty or forty turns before this area drops down onto another traverse leading back left toward Apres Vous, but I think it’s lots of fun.
Again, this is mostly intermediate terrain, but there are some little testers scattered around. Most of the better stuff is to the rider’s right of the chair. You’ll pass Sleeping Indian run and then Wide Open. Look for this sign at the top of the Casper chair, turn right as you exit the chair, and then follow the traverse as it heads into the trees at the far side of the run called Wide Open:
The traverse heads into the trees just on the other side of Wide Open, and then leads to Moran Woods and Moran Face. This is tree skiing with a few little airy boulders mixed in. It’s a good place on a powder day because not so many powder hounds ride the Casper Chair. Also, the gully area between Sleeping Indian and Wide Open can be great if you’re one of the first skiers in there after a dump.
After skiing Moran Woods or Face, you'll drop down onto a cat track leading skier's right and back to the bottom of the Casper chair. At the top of the chair, you can also exit left (south) as you’re riding up. Follow that cat track and after looping around below a big rocky area above you called Upper Casper Bowl, you’ll come to a cat track intersection at a spot known as Croaky Point. There’s some fun glade skiing straight down the spine and to either side of the little ridge you’re standing on. If you ski down that ridgeline, you’ll come to another cat track – this one leading to the left and back toward the Casper chair. You can drop off that cat track to the right and ski a more open gentle face down to the South Pass traverse, which is your last chance to go left back to Casper chair.
Another option (instead of riding back up the Casper chair) from the South Pass traverse is to turn right just before you reach the bottom of the chair. This gets you onto a much-ignored run call Nez Perce (pronounced Nay Per-say), which drops down into Sundance Gully. About four or five turns down Nez Perce from the base of the Casper chair is a little track leading left into the woods. This leads to Jackson Face. Lots of little brush and glades, rollers and terrain features in there. Explore.
Lots of choices here. First off, if it’s around lunchtime, you might want to stop in at the deli on the main floor of the Bridger Gondola top station. There are also restrooms and a ski shop (with lots of demos) in that building. So, let’s ski from the Gondie…
One choice is to start back down directly under the gondola and traverse left almost immediately. I believe the traverse is marked as the Casper Traverse, and it's the little slot through the trees between the second and third towers (from the left) in this photo:
This will lead you (after a rutty, bumpy traverse) into Upper Casper Bowl. This little traverse is known locally as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and it can definitely be a wild ride. You'll soon come out into a big open bowl, however. There are lots of terrain features in Casper Bowl, and it may not be open if there’s been new snow, but it’s a great spot. When you get to the cat track after skiing the Bowl, you can head right toward Croaky Point, or…
If you ski on past Croaky Point and past the obvious run known as Sundance, you can ski the trees between Sundance and Gros Ventre (pronounced Grow Vont). Depending on which way you trend, you’ll either end up in the Sundance Gully drainage or the Slalom/Gros Ventre drainage. There are a bunch of little slots and faces in this whole area that can reward those with an expeditionary spirit.
So let's ride back up the gondola and see what happens if you head slightly right and down from the top of the Gondola. You’ll have several options here as well. About 100 yards below the top station, you'll come to this sign marking the junction of Lupine Way (which leads off to the right) and Upper Gros Ventre (straight down the mountain). Here's a photo of that sign:
Just as you drop off the road onto Upper Gros Ventre, there is an area to your right that's marked with caution signs. This is a rocky, stunted-tree section called Granny Chutes that's between Upper Gros Ventre and Amphitheater and it offers some pretty challenging stuff. Lots of boulders and dropoffs in here, and *all* of it is avalanche terrain (that’s why all the trees are so small). Just head down Lupine Way and trend right as you enter Upper Gros Ventre run.
There’s also a main run called Cascade that's JUST to the right as you start down Upper Gros Ventre. Cascade is a well-defined run with a little chokepoint between rock outcroppings shortly after you drop into it. To skier’s right of Cascade is an area known as Granny Rocks. There are some very fun lines in here but there are lots of rocks, too, so take it easy (or even skip it) if the visibility is poor.
Looking at these photos, I want to mention something at this point. Most of these photos were taken with a wide-angle lens in order to show as much of the terrain as possible. That lens "flattens" the perspective of the mountain and makes pitches look much less steep than they'll feel when you ski them. Much of the terrain in this guide is pretty serious stuff, particularly when compared with terrain at other ski resorts in the US.
Don't take these runs lightly just because the photo may not make them look intimidating.
The whole Cascade/Granny area also eventually funnels down into a drainage known as Dick’s Ditch. Dick’s sort of officially starts at the Sunnyside Traverse (which leads left from Amphitheater over to Lower Gros Ventre). You can ski down Dick’s through the gully or you can ski along the sides and drop in almost anywhere along either side. Dropping in from the sides provides some of the steepest skiing on the mountain, for a half dozen turns or so. Lower Dick’s Ditch is the classic natural half pipe/terrain park and leads all the way to the bottom of the mountain.
Let’s say that instead of going down Cascade or Granny’s, you followed Lupine Way down to Amphitheater and then just followed Amphitheater run. You would have found yourself at the bottom of the Thunder Chair.
This is the "money" chair as far as more challenging skiing at Jackson Hole. Thunder goes up a ridgeline with routes coming down the ridge itself and both flanks. As you board the chair, check out the rocky, relatively steep bowl area just above you on your left. This is Riverton Bowl and the tram runs directly over it. We'll come back to that one in a minute.
Also as you're riding up Thunder, you'll cross Thunder Run (coming from above you on the left and dropping down to the right). This is Jackson's best-known mogul run. Here's a photo looking down Thunder run from the chair:
As you near the top of the Thunder Chair, you'll start to see a barricade made of orange fencing almost directly under the chair. That fencing is meant to "discourage" skiers from mistakenly dropping down into Tower 3 Chute. There's an entrance gate near the top of the chute, about thirty yards across from the great big tram tower (coincidentally known as, ta da, Tower 3). Keep all of these in mind as you ski back down.
When you unload the chair, you can go straight, which will take you to the dividing saddle between Amphitheater (right at the saddle) and Laramie Bowl (left at the saddle). Both of those are "easier" than what we're about to ski, so I'm just telling you about them so you'll understand the lay of the land a little better.
As you unload, take a little 180-degree left turn around the chair station and you'll be pointed back down toward the valley. The tram cables will be directly above you as well. Start down toward the valley and about a hundred feet above Tower 3, you'll see a very obvious road going left. Following that all the way leads to the easiest way down to Amphitheater and back to the bottom of the Thunder Chair.
Following that road about fifty yards will take you to the top of a run on the right called Paintbrush. This is a great, steep little bump run that faces north and holds good snow long after a snowstorm. After dropping a ways on Paintbrush, you'll come to a kind of flat little chokepoint in some trees. This is where Toilet Bowl starts. The central gully (if you just followed the most obvious fall-line from that chokepoint) leads down some stair-steppy boulders and faces, through Toilet Bowl, and finally down onto Amphitheater. Going right at the chokepoint brings you out onto the more open (but still pretty steep and bumpy) portion of TB near the bottom of Tower 3 Chute. Going left at the chokepoint gets you out onto Toilet Face. This area includes some very steep slabs and ledges and small dropoffs. If it tells you anything, this is where climbing guides teach beginning rock climbing during the summer – it’s steep! It's great fun to ski, but be VERY careful if the light is flat - if you don't know the area, you could easily ski into or off of something nasty.
Here's a photo of most of Toilet Bowl, with Tower 3 chute angling down on the left side of the photo, and Paintbrush run (pretty much invisible because of the trees on the upper right) coming in from the right:
Back up near Tower 3, instead of turning left to go to Paintbrush, go straight down the line of the chairlift. You'll cross a little rollover and then you should be looking for that orange fencing I was talking about. This is the entrance to Tower 3 Chute and you want to find the gate into it. Here's a ski patroller doing a ski-cut for avalanche control almost right under the chair and at the top of Tower 3 Chute:
T3 starts out pretty wide, steeper on skier's left and slightly shallower on skier's right along the bottom side of the fencing. There are several small trees and a couple of rocks in the chute, so a slide can take you into some unpleasant obstacles. For your first time, most people choose the right side (which is where the main part of the gully is) and stay pretty much in the fall-line. The left side is a bit sportier, as it's somewhat steeper and involves a couple of fairly narrow chokepoints. The two sides converge about midway down the chute, and then you just follow the bump line. Before long, it'll open out into the wide section of Toilet Bowl and you've successfully skied T3. One note - if you decide to stop as you're skiing down the chute, it's considered good eitquette to pull as far to one side of the gully as you can so you're out of the traffic zone. Not only does it clear the way for other skiers, it MIGHT keep you from getting clocked by a falling/sliding skier from above.
So let's say T3 wasn't challenging enough for you. Instead of skiing Tower 3, continue on below the T3 entrance gate, following the fencing on your left shoulder. Just past the end of the fencing, pick a likely-looking opening and drop left down into those thick trees in front of you. This is a fairly wide area known as the Mushroom Chutes. There's no single run or line here, just a bunch of narrow slots through trees and giant boulders. The tops of the boulders build up huge pillows of snow that eventually look like - viola! - mushrooms. This is a pretty steep section of the mountain with some very tight quarters, but it can be lots of fun to poke around in here. Just be careful.
A little further down the chair line from the Mushroom Chutes is another little opening in the trees on the left. This leads to Hoop's Gap. This is a short but quite steep sidehill dropping through trees and down onto Amphitheater. If you kept going down the chairlift line past Hoop's, you'll come out onto Thunder Run itself. Lots of bumps and a great pitch make this a classic mogul run.
Let's ride the chair back up and check out some of the other skiing off the Thunder chair. Back up at Tower 3, you still have many other choices. You can ski down under the tram cables and eventually come out at the top of Riverton Bowl. It gradually widens as it drops down to the bottom of the Thunder Chair. To skier's right of Riverton Bowl is Gannett run. This is a little mellower than Riverton but has some very fun glade skiing along the right-hand side of the run, between Gannett and Grand. Grand is a great intermediate-to-advanced run that goes all the way from Tower Three to the bottom of the Sublette Chair. To skier's right of Grand is the area known as Grand Woods, which again is nice glade skiing opening out into some fun little aspen groves.
If you work skier's right from the top of Grand Woods, you'll find yourself in the Gold Mine Chutes. These are kind of ratty little slots through the rocks down onto the main part of Laramie Bowl. Here's a shot of the Gold Mine chutes from the top of Laramie Bowl.
The Gold Mines comprise the area to the right and down from the big cliff face in the left-center of this photo. The Gold Mines are fun, but they almost never get real good snow coverage and they face south. That means that the snow in there is often hard and icy, and if it's powder you won't know where the rocks are until you do core shots on your skis. Sounds great, doesn't it?
So, that's it for the Thunder Chair. There's a lot more, but you'll have to discover it on your own.
Okay... so you went down Gold Mine Chutes anyway (after I warned you not to) and you came out on Laramie Bowl. Follow the bowl to the bottom of the Sublette Chair and hop on. Interestingly enough, the Sublette Chair is also known in local-speak as "the quad". Now it's a four-person chair, which makes it a quad, but we also have four other chairs that can carry four passengers. So, go figure. But if someone just says "meet me at the quad", it's almost certain they're talking about the Sublette chair.
As you ride "the quad", you'll go through some fairly thick trees on both sides of the chair. As those trees thin out, you're coming to the Alta Chutes on your left. The chutes are numbered from the top down, so the first one you're going to pass as you're riding up the chair is Alta 3. It's fairly open and a little less steep, and it’s the easiest of the Alta Chutes. Just past a big rock outcropping (popular with the huckers) will be two little insignificant slots in the trees and rocks - those are Alta 2.5 and Alta 2.
Shortly beyond Alta 2, you'll see a very obvious chute dropping all the way down from the ridgeline above you on the left of the chair. It starts out kind of wide and then chokes down to about 2 ski lengths just above where it crosses under the chair. This is Alta 1 and is the most-skied of the Alta Chutes. All of the Alta Chutes face north/east and the snow quality will stay good for some time after a storm. They tend to be chalky, edgy snow most of the time. They are quite steep, however, so be very mindful of sliding if you happen to go down. Also, you get to have a built-in audience when you ski them - you're in full view of all the lift riders. Here's A-1 from the chair:
After you pass Alta 1, you next ride up past the Alta Zero chutes. These are usually closed but it's just a jumbled rock/cliff/tree face that *occasionally* is open. This area is generally just for looks, not for skiing.
After you top out of Alta Zero, the lift follows a ridgeline. Below you and to your right is the northeast-facing side of Laramie Bowl. You'll cross a cat track coming from left to right, and the little elbow in the cat track right there is known as "Flip Point" because Pepi Stiegler used to do flips off that cat track about thirty years ago. Here's Flip Point from the chair. Pepi would flip OVER the little pine trees in the right-center of the photo:
The skiing below Flip Point can be great. Again, it's northeast-facing so the snow stays good. You just pick a line and drop down into Laramie Bowl.
Once you're at the top of the Sublette chair, you can turn left or right. Let's talk about right for a moment, because going that way means that you will NOT be able to come back to the base of the Sublette chair without riding another lift.
Turn right as you're getting off the Sublette chair. You'll cross a little ridge and a large, gentle bowl will come into view. This is Tensleep Bowl. The bowl itself provides some fun skiing, but its main claim to fame is the terrain that you access from Tensleep. The spot where you come across the ridge is where Jackson Hole's World Cup Downhill course started. More on that in a minute. Here's a view of Tensleep from the edge of the bowl:
That first orange sign on the left side of the photo is almost directly below Corbet's Couloir. In the photo, the ski patrol is just setting up signs on Tensleep for the first time this season. With more snow, those signs will be moved much farther to skier's left. You can ski directly down the bowl or keep traversing hard left. Traversing left (beyond where the closed signs are in this photo) would bring you underneath Corbet's Couloir and you can look up and see what the thing looks like from below. The area skier's left from the Corbet's apron is known as "Left Field" and is a low-angle jumble of rocks and wind-drifts that funnels back down to the right. This can be a very fun area to ski, but the wind is very capricious up here and the rocks aren't always covered. If you choose to ski Left Field, don't blame me for any damage you do to your skis.
Back at the start of Tensleep, let's drop down the obvious run, cross a bit of a flat, a rollover, another little flat and rollover, and then watch for a traverse going into the trees on the right. This is the entrance to the Expert Chutes. Here's a photo of the whole Expert Chutes area taken from over by the gondola.
In this photo, Tensleep Bowl is the sloping area behind the trees that are just to the right of the tram tower on the left side of the photo. The entrance to the chutes comes in just at the right-hand edge of the big cliff band below that tower.
The Expert Chutes are what their name implies. This is a wide scree slope with a cliff wall above you on the right and a rock band crossing the slope below you. You have to ski through the slots in the rock band, so this also isn't a place to go in poor visibility. As you approach the Expert Chutes entrance, you'll be following a rutty traverse right going out along the base of the cliff. Most everyone skis either the first obvious chute or the second, but there are actually about eight or ten well-defined chutes. They all have names, all of which are the names of psychological disorders. The last one on the traverse is my favorite run at Jackson Hole. It's called Insomnia. You have to traverse AS FAR AS YOU CAN GO along the base of the cliff, with a fair amount of sidestepping to get to the top of it. It starts out wide for a few turns, narrows to a very tight hourglass, and then widens out again. I have no idea why I like it so much - it's too short to really be worth all the effort it takes to get there. I must have some sort of psychological disorder. Here's a shot taken from the top of the Thunder Chair. The patrollers are setting up early-season markings on one of the middle chutes:
And this photo shows a little bit of Insomnia. It's the chute just behind that big rock outcropping on the far right side of this photo:
Anyway, all of the Expert Chutes drop down into Amphitheater, which leads back to the Thunder Chair or on down to the bottom of the mountain.
If you went straight on Tensleep instead of turning right on the Expert Chutes traverse, you would come to another decision point. Here's a photo that shows your choices:
If you go left past this sign, you're going to come out on the Cirque Traverse which leads to the huge, open area known as the Cirque. If you turn right at this sign, you'll drop down to where you have to either ski the Downhill Chute, Broadway Chute, or Lonnie's Chute. Here's what that area looks like:
Lonnie's is the fairly wide one (below all the trees) in sort of the left-center of this photo. Broadway is the one a little further right and the name is pretty sarcastic because it's only about two ski-lengths wide. The Downhill Chute is the bigger one to the right of Broadway. If you ski the Downhill Chute, imagine being a World Cup downhiller coming up to the chute at about 60mph and then having the world drop away from you. It's pretty impressive to stand at the lip of that chute and think about it.
If you stayed left at that sign instead of dropping toward the Downhill Chute, you'll be on the Cirque Traverse. There's a little flat and then some fencing to mark a big (big) rock on the right sideof the traverse. Just *before* that fencing is a little tiny slot between rocks on the left and a tree/rock wall on the right. This isn't even a ski-width wide, and is known as Meet Your Maker. You basically just point 'em and bail out with a right turn when you clear the rocks. Some people use this as a little practice spot for doing Corbet's Couloir.
If you traverse past Meet Your Maker, you come out onto the full expanse of the Cirque. You can traverse as far (skier's left) as you want until you run into a rock wall wayyyy across the face. Here's a photo showing the full expanse of the Cirque, with Broadway Chute and the Downhill Chute visible at the left-center of the photo:
The far skier's-left area gives you a longer, straighter shot in the fall-line. The Cirque faces south, which can be good or bad. The sun will screw up the snow here earlier than a lot of other places on the mountain, but it also will soften up hard snow and make for some great afternoon skiing if you time it right. It's all luck and local knowledge.
All of this side of the mountain (Tensleep, Expert Chutes, Cirque) drop down into Amphitheater, so in order to get back to the Sublette Chair you would have to ride the Thunder Chair and ski back down to Sublette.
But now let's come back to the top of the Sublette Chair, and we'll turn left instead of right. You have a ton of choices from here. The most direct way to tougher skiing is to head back down just below the chairlift. This area is known as Mudslide Traverse and it can have some of the worst skiing on the hill. It eventually leads (after sun-hardened, miserable, big, sidehill moguls), onto the cat track at Flip Point.
Here's a photo that shows Mudslide Traverse as the lightly-tracked area in the upper middle of the image. The photo also shows the Laramie Traverse as the road that angles down from left to right. The far right-hand end of the road in this photo is Flip Point. Below that is Bird in the Hand, and to the left (in the photo) is Bernie's Bowl.
From that cat track at Flip Point, you have four immediate choices. Going from skier's left to right, you can ski off Flip Point itself and drop into Laramie Bowl. Another alternative is to continue on down the ridge, which is Pepi's Run (leading to all the Alta Chutes). Another choice, slightly to skier's right from the Flip Point road, is Bird in the Hand. The last choice, more like a hard right from the road, is Bernie's Bowl. For Flip Point, you just pick a spot to your left and drop in. For Pepi's, head down sort of under the chair cables and trend slightly to your right. In a short distance, you'll be at the top of Alta 1. If you skirt that and keep going, you'll pass Alta 2 and then Alta 3. You can stay on Pepi's all the way back to the Sublette Chair loading point, or you can drop off right as well.
Also from that same cat track, Bird in the Hand is a fun run that faces south and can have extremely variable conditions. An offshoot of Bird in the Hand (just where is narrows and turns right) is to go left through some trees and come out on Two in the Bush, which is steep and rocky. Another little side-excursion from Bird in the Hand is to turn left a little below the narrows and go through about 50 feet of trees. Where it opens out again, there's an open area dropping down to your right, which then bends around a rock on skier's left and drops steeply down to a flat at the bottom of Cheyenne Bowl. This bend is known as the Dogleg Chute and it's another of my favorite places.
Finally, from that same spot on the cat track near Flip Point, you can cut hard right just below the cat track out into an area known as Bernie's Bowl. Just follow the right-leading traverse. If you drop left shortly after leaving Bird in the Hand, you'll be skiing an area known as Sherry's Slide. Further out on the traverse is the main part of Bernie's. All of this area faces generally south and can get warm and soft or hard and frozen, depending on the day, the time, the temp, and the sun. It can be some pretty bad skiing or it can be great. You never know until you go.
Now let’s say you chose to go left from the top of Sublette chair instead of back down Mudslide. If you do, you'll traverse in a southerly direction until the road comes out at a big trail map at the bottom of Rendezvous Bowl. I'll describe Rendezvous Bowl when we get to the skiing accessed from the tram. From the bottom of the Rendezvous Bowl, you can follow the main cat track toward Rendezvous Trail or you can head slightly left of the main Trail and find yourself at the top of Central Chute. This is a double stairstep kind of steep shot that drops into Cheyenne Bowl. The first chute is fairly wide and often kind of rocky. Once through it, you can continue straight in the fall-line to a second little chute (very narrow) or cut left about thirty yards and drop down a somewhat wider but also bumpier chute. Both lead into Cheyenne Bowl proper, and there's a lot of options in this little area.
If you started down Rendezvous Trail, you're going to be skiing down a cat track with an obvious drop-off left. This area all leads down into Cheyenne Bowl. This next photo shows Central Chute, (near the upper right side of the photo, Cheyenne Bowl (most of the right side of photo), Bivouac Woods (wide trees in the middle) and Bivouac Run (the obvious cut run on the left.
There are little cliff bands and rocky areas to watch out for, so most people ski a bit further along until they come to a big pine tree along the left edge of the cat track. Going down from here gets you into the bowl/woods area known as Bivouac Woods. This is steep, usually bumpy, and northeast-facing, so the snow is often good quality. This is also one of my prime destinations on a flat-light powder day. The trees help with visibility and there is often more snow funneled into this area by the wind. Just down the cat track a little further is the top of Bivouac Run, which is an obvious run cut through the trees. This gets groomed occasionally but it's a pretty steep little mother and builds up huge bumps over time. Still on Rendezvous Trail, beyond Bivouac is Cheyenne Woods, which is a bunch of steep, narrow lines through the trees. This can be a great place in powder and pretty fun in just bumps.
If you kept going on Rendezvous Trail, you'll drop down a little steeper section and then come to a cat track going right into some trees. This is the entrance to the Hobacks.
The Hobacks can be some of the sweetest skiing real estate on the planet if you hit them at the right time. Very long (almost 3,000 vertical feet) and with nearly constant pitch, the Hobacks are famous throughout all of skiing. One caveat - if the conditions are tough, which they often can be on the Hobacks, there's nowhere for you to bail out. Once you get to the top of the Hobacks, the only escape is down. This is the truest form of ski-what-the-mountain-gives-you.
If you passed on the Hobacks, you'll continue to follow Rendezvous Trail down some steeps, flats, bends, and so forth until you come back to the bottom of the Sublette Chair. And that concludes the rundown on skiing off the Sublette Chair.
Next (finally!) we'll go up the aerial tram.
There are really only a couple of things to ski from the tram that we haven't covered already. Rendezvous Bowl is the "easy" way down. It's big, wide, moderately steep, and subject to all kinds of wind, sun, snow, and weather conditions. It can be powder, smooth skier-pack, rock-hard frozen bumps, creamy corn, or ankle-deep slush. It can have horrible white-out conditions or it can be one of the most gorgeous places you've ever been.
There's a line of markers down the fall-line to skier's right as you traverse across the bowl. Use these or the trees on the left side of the bowl to pick your way down if the clouds roll in.
Another option, of course, is Corbet's Couloir.
From the little cabin at the top of the tram, trend down and slightly left through some scrubby trees and you will come to the heavily-barricaded entrance to Corbet's. Duck under/through the gates and take a look. Sometimes it's "relatively" easy, sometimes it's suicidal, but it's always a rush. See what you think. Of course, if you’re a skiing rock star and you do Corbet's and it was just too wussy for you, the next time up you can go ask the ski patrol for permission to do S&S Couloir. That's just down-mountain from Corbet's, around the big rock outcropping. S&S is pretty scary.
If Corbet's looked a little intimidating, you can ski down the left side of Rendezvous Bowl for a few turns and then look for the East Ridge Traverse. This is kind of an exposed, slightly airy traverse above the top of the Sublette Chair. It leads to the top of Tensleep Bowl (discussed earlier) and also to a seldom-open area called Hanging Snowfield.
Here's a photo of Hanging Snowfield taken from the tram:
Doesn't that look tasty? Hanging Snowfield is very steep and drops through some rocks into Tensleep Bowl. To get to it, you would stay as high as possible on the East Ridge Traverse, keep going until you come to the obvious kinfe-edge ridge, and then see if the closed signs are up or down. It's almost always closed, but if it's open it's one of the steepest pitches inside the Jackson Hole ski area's boundaries. Don't duck the rope (in case you're wondering, I don't *ever* duck ropes) because if it's closed there's a good reason.
Those are really your only choices from the tram, and all lead to areas that we've already described that can be accessed from the Sublette Chair or the Thunder Chair.
The only other area, which is actually huge, that I'll describe is the Lower Faces. These are made up, from skier's right to skier's left, of Sublette Ridge, Rawlins Bowl, South Colter Ridge, Buffalo Bowl, North Colter, Lander Bowl, and Tramline. All of these are accessed by the South Pass Traverse.
The South Pass Traverse leads down from the bottom of the Sublette Chair. You just ski along, look for a line that appeals to you, and drop down. All of these eventually lead to a collector road coming from the bottom of the Hobacks. You follow that road to a small chairlift that takes you diagonally over to where you can ski back down to the base at Teton Village. The Lower Faces, by themselves, are bigger than most ski areas. There is an endless variety of pitch, elevation, exposure, trees, boulders, cliffs, etc. You can find incredibly good snow, incredibly bad snow, and everything in between. Skiing the Lower Faces (like the Hobacks) is often the essence of big-mountain alpine skiing. With the occasional exception of Tramline, the groomers don't ever go here. They can't - it's too steep. If it's not a powder day, you'll often find yourself almost completely alone on much of the Lower Faces - most people can't (or don't choose to) handle the Lower Faces in crud. But if you ski them in junk, they *will* make you stronger as a skier.
That pretty much concludes the tour. What's so fun about this mountain is the variety. At times, the conditions are so good you'll want to cry. At other times, they're so bad you can only laugh. It's not uncommon to have both of those going at some point on the mountain on the same day and at the same time. If you're adventurous and love poking around, there are tremendous rewards all over the mountain. Just get out there and give it a shot.
Have fun and stay safe.
This little summary is geared mainly toward people who are coming here for the first time and want to get a feel for the lifts and terrain. Most of the runs I’ll describe are intermediate through advanced, and are runs that are groomed daily or fairly often. If you follow the little tour I’m suggesting, you’ll have an excellent understanding of the mountain and you’ll see plenty of more challenging stuff along the way (if that’s what you’re looking for).
I’m the mountain rep for Head skis here at Jackson Hole, and I have a relationship with the local Head dealer, Teton Village Sports (TVS). TVS is the oldest and largest ski shop at Teton Village, and I hope you can maybe give them some business while you’re here.
Last but not least, part of the reason I put this online guide together is to help bring traffic to my real estate company. I (Bob Peters) am a real estate broker in Jackson Hole. If you or anyone you know is ever interested in learning more about owning property in this incredible location, I hope you'll contact me. My company website is here:
And you can also see details on an incredible Alaskan fly-in fishing lodge (which could also be a heli-skiing operation with a little bit of imagination) that we have listed for sale. Here's the site: