5 days in the Hole – 2011

Rather than returning to Colorado for a short snowboarding trip and visiting friends, I found a very affordable deal for Jackson Hole; a name that will put a dreamy look on any snowboarders face. My boyfriend at the time was able to score some free lift tickets through Burton which made it even more perfect to visit. The flight was routed through Chicago from Boston and landing directly in Jackson Hole on January 5th. Arriving in Wyoming was like stepping onto a Hollywood wild west movie set. Everything was made out of antlers, wood and animal skins, or a combination there of. After checking into a quaint one room log cabin at the Cowboy Village, we walked through town and visited souvenir shops full of stuffed animals of all sizes. There were funny t-shirt shops, cowboy bars, cowboy restaurants, cowboy statues and lots of big pick-up trucks. It was a chilly winter wonderland and I couldn’t wait to get onto the legendary mountain. I wasn’t feeling fantastic and the jet-lag was considerable, so I didn’t fight the urge to sleep when 7pm rolled around. January 6th was our first day snowboarding. It hadn’t snowed in a while and the conditions were representative of that. I still felt sick and tired and welcomed a chance to just take it easy and get familiar with the resort and mountain. The weather was overcast meaning low visibility. I often find myself bugging my eyes out in an unsuccessful attempt to discern the contours of the slope below me in those conditions. The resort was quite large for American standards. It felt so much more vast with the over-dimensionally wide valley dividing the ranges, than in the Alps with steeper, tighter valleys. A real view was obstructed by the low cloud cover, sparking my curiosity of what it would look like with perfect visibility and blue skies. January 7th was much more eventful overall for us. We had an interview together with legendary rider Bryan Iguchi at noon, who also gave us some insider tips on freeride terrain where we might find some fresh patches still. In the afternoon we started taking some freeride runs; we especially enjoyed the terrain below the tram once it opened up for a few runs as the clouds lifted high enough up to free the summit. It was gnarly terrain and required paying attention to orientation in order to avoid massive cliffs or extreme terrain. At the end of the day we went to the supermarket for supplies to make dinner. Everyone at the supermarket was Disney Movie friendly and it was easy to get entwined in a lengthy conversation with interesting people. Discussing the difference between organic and standard potatoes, we ended up meeting a couple who became good friends. We spent 2 hours at the supermarket and met more people than I had met in a year in my village! We were determined to check out the backcountry terrain Bryan had recommended to us but only had a book with some frontal areal photography of summer and winter pictures of the mountain aspects. Sitting just outside the resort boundary gate in an open field, we tried to pick lines which looked like they were ride-able in the book and match that to the actual terrain we were standing in. We lucked out that it was a challenge because we wanted to double check our intended route with a local and ended up meeting Russell, a wild local guide who was taking a hike to Cody Peak with 2 friends and invited us along. I didn’t feel well enough to really hike in general, let alone in harsh conditions, but it was the kind of opportunity that you read about rather than experience usually! We climbed the impressive Cody Peak in howling wind, icy temperatures and verglas on the rocks: it was adrenaline pure! The chute we rode was No Shadows, which had a drop in similar to the middle of the pipe and an open waning field below. The snow conditions were varied and much thinner than hoped. I had a powder board with me but didn’t have any powder around. I hoped for something fresh in the gully as it was untouched when we got there. The girls with Russell, one skier and one snowboarder, had not been back to Cody Peak in years after watching friends die in an avalanche they were caught in there. That definitely added to my apprehension about whether or not I felt well enough for whatever it was we were doing. After that run we hiked up Heart Attack Hill to get some more runs in. By 2:30pm we were all pretty tired and met up at the Alpenhof for apres-ski. It was a funny bunch of snow nomads and a fantastic chance to get to ride a peak like that in Jackson Hole. We never would have found that line on our own and Russell made it unforgettable by inviting us to join. The next day was kind of dismal: weather and health-wise. I’m positive I didn’t drink enough water to compensate for the altitude and exertion of the day before. We managed to just cruise around the resort a little then check out the office of TGR (Teton Gravity Research: one of the best freeride movie producers in the industry). The new supermarket-friends pulled over as they were driving by while we were walking home and invited us to dinner that evening. On January 10th we finally got something of a glimpse of the landscape as the clouds cleared up somewhat, exposing scattered holes revealing blue sky. We took some ice cold backcountry runs in the stunning natural park. Towering cliff bands divided the sloping wooded mountainside and made for some tricky navigation. The general rule of thumb when riding Jackson Hole is: if you’re not willing to jump a 30 meter cliff, don’t follow tracks blindly! We spent the afternoon in the park “The Stash” for some photo shooting, which was the primary reason we got free lift tickets from Burton in the first place. We met a local rider, Mike, who joined up with us. By 3pm we had to take him to the hospital with a broken arm following a bad landing off of an obstacle. It was a nice role change for me as I’m usually the one who broke something. We ended the evening in a food coma from massive amounts of delicious Mexican food and tried to avoid thinking about the fact that it was time to fly home again. Jackson Hole, regardless of the disappointing snow conditions, was amazing. This place really left an impression on me and I truly hope I will have the opportunity to ride there again. It could easily be heaven on earth on a powder day there!


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