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Jackson Hole: A Snowboarder’s Paradise

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Jackson Hole: A Snowboarder’s Paradise

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When the conditions are right at Jackson Hole, there are few places in the world that offer such spectacular skiing and snowboarding.

The resort is as extreme as resorts go in North America and is surely not for the fainthearted. It is steeper than any mountain I’ve ever skied and has more cliffs and natural features than any other resort in the country.

Most importantly, there are few resorts in North America that consistently get more snow than Jackson Hole. Most blue runs in Jackson would be blacks anywhere else and more than half of the resort’s runs are black diamonds.

That said, Jackson Hole is an excellent mountain for people wishing to push their limits. There are two lifts for beginners but the amount of green runs are limited. Beginners who advance quickly will have a hard time in Jackson, because the level of difficulty increases drastically between the green and the blue runs.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a snowboarder's paradise

Apart from the all of the amazing terrain accessed by the lifts at “The Village,” Jackson is home to some of the most easily accessible back country skiing in the country and is full of people who are genuinely happy to be skiing it. I spoke to dozens of people who came to Jackson to ski for one season and have lived there ever since.

After snowboarding there for eight days, I completely understood why. In fact, I almost became one of those people.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a snowboarder's paradise

I arrived on Sunday, February 13th and my first two days of riding felt like April. It was sunny, blue skies, 50 degrees, and the slopes were soft as ever.

We spent the day spraying slush through the trees and sessioning the terrain parks and half-pipe. It’s not everyday you can ride a freshly cut, soft half-pipe wearing your base layer in mid February.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a snowboarder's paradise

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a snowboarder's paradise

My friend Evan at top of gondola at Jackson Hole

After snowboarding, many of the locals and mountain employees head to Nick Wilson’s Cafe for their “shifty,” a one-dollar beer special available for employees only. Another Nick Wilson’s signature is their fried portabello mushroom wedges with sweet and sour sauce. Delicious.

It cooled down on Wednesday, leaving the resort crusty and iced over with the slushy conditions freezing over night. We took the day off, and by Thursday snow was falling heavily. Over the next four days, we received a good 3 feet of fresh snow, probably more like 4 or 5 feet in areas where the wind had blown.

Most locals in Jackson have back-country gear. The basic necessities are a backpack, lightweight snow shovel, beacon, and a probe. Luckily, I was able to borrow everything I needed, which allowed me to ride in the back-country.

Corbett's Cabin, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Corbett's Cabin at top of tram, famous for its delicious waffles

On Thursday, we took the tram to the top of the mountain, ate some of the best waffles I’ve had in my life, and drank coffee at Corbet’s Cabin. Feeling warm and content, we strapped on our beacons and our boards and took the short traverse to the gate that leads you out of bounds into the back country, south of the resort.

Rock Springs ,Jackson, Wyoming

The hike to Rock Springs

From the gate, it’s a short ride, a quick traverse, and then a twenty-minute bootpack to the top of a ridge. Walking along the ridge you have the choice of taking a left to Green River, continuing straight to Rock Springs, or hiking another 45 minutes to Four Pines.

View from top of Four Pines, Jackson, Wyoming

View from top of Four Pines

This time, we chose to unstrap and hike up to Four Pines. We admired the amazing scenery as we strapped in above the untracked, open run before us. Evan picked a line, turned his nose above the snow and slashed away thigh deep powder surfing lightly through the snow. I followed with a untracked line just to the left of his.

The avalanche report for the day stated considerable danger because of the thick layer of ice that had froze the day before the snow fell. We rode cautiously on the steeper slopes, being sure to keep an eye on each other at all times.

The farther south you hike away from the resort, the longer of a traverse you have getting out. It’s a heel side traverse for regular riders, toe side for goofy riders. A loopy, roller-coaster like traverse through the trees eventually brings you back to the base of the mountain.

We rode the tram up, and rode the exact same run again, questioning if a different run could have been any better.

Teton Pass, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Hiking Teton Pass

That night it, it snowed another twelve inches. We woke up at 5 AM and drove up Teton Pass on highway 22 from Wilson. We parked the car on the side of the highway and began a 45-minute bootback up a steep slope through deep powder. We walked above a large cornice on top of a ridge before reaching the top of a run called Shivers, a relatively short run that would bring us back to the highway a few miles down from where our car was parked.

Teton Pass, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Enjoying the powder after a run down Teton Pass

We were the first ones up that morning, and the snow was the deepest and lightest I’ve ever rode. Snow hit me in the chest and in the face on almost every turn. As Evan rode his line after me, his entire body would disappear and then pop back up out of giant clouds of powder.

That run alone would have been satisfactory enough for the entire day, but we knew the conditions at the resort were going to be amazing at well. We arrived at the resort at 9 AM ready to go. The lift lines were long with die-hard skiers ready to get their powder fix.

All morning we rode laps on the Thunder and Sublet lifts. A highlight of the morning was riding the Alta Zero shoots beneath the Sublet lift. Alta Zero offers a variety of steep lines, cliffs of many sizes, and narrow shoots pushing you back onto the main run.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a snowboarder's paradise

After lunch, we headed up the tram and returned to the back country for two glorious laps on Rock Springs and Green River. At 5:30 PM and after 12 full hours of snowboarding, we were ready for a cold beverage, some food, and a hot tub.

It was the best day of snowboarding I had ever had, but for the regulars, it was just another Jackson powder day.

Comments

cole walters
January 11, 2015

such an amazing trip, I visualize the entire ride. I am actually going next month to Board Jackson,will be my first time riding there!  Just booked our room today.  GREAT WORDS…..EPIC

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Don Nadeau
January 12, 2015

Hi Cole,

Thanks. Will let Nick know.

Nick attended school at Colorado College. I know its location played a big role in that decision. :)

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