Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole, WY - 1/10-1/13/14

It's a new year. 2014 means I'll be 34 years old in May. Wow. I guess I might as well just keep living an awesome life.

While everyone back here in the east was wallowing through a warm, rainy weekend, I headed out to Driggs, Idaho for a few days of adventure at some places I'd never been before. Unfortunately, there aren't too many pictures because I was too busy skiing and having fun the whole time.

The first two days we hit Grand Targhee. Friday was great. About 8 inches of fresh pow with a nice base:

The next day, there was another 4 inches of snow, but it must have rained briefly the night before because there was a crusty layer under the fresh snow. It made the ungroomed terrain pretty hard work, but everything that had been groomed was in great shape: Powder on top of hardpack. We stuck to those trails and some lower mountain glades that had been relatively sheltered from the rain. We skied at a more relaxed pace, quit a little early to watch football, and petted this avalanche dog:

Sunday at Jackson Hole was awesome. About a foot of new snow and just a great day to ski. Enormous crowds, and everyone was just charging all over the mountain, looking for powder stashes. We found our best pow off the Gondola and out in the Hobacks. No great pics, but there are a couple shots of us having fun:

And one to give you an idea of the snow conditions:

After skiing, we hung out at the Mangy Moose, which deserves its reputation as one of the best ski bars in the country. Then we went into the town of Jackson, ate at an amazing restaurant, then went to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (where the barstools are saddles) for more drinks. Great times.

The next day, we got another 6 or 7 inches of snow. Originally, we had planned a backcountry day in Teton Pass, but with the avalanche danger listed as "considerable", we decided to pass on the Pass. So we headed back to Jackson Hole for another day at the resort. The crowds were significantly smaller on the weekday, so we were able to do 2 quick Gondy laps before we jumped on the Tram:

There was absolutely no visibility in the Rendezvous Bowl, which was too bad, because the snow was awesome. Back in the Hobacks, though, everything was clear and powdery. Tons of good skiing. We also did a couple of laps on the Casper lift, which seemed to be overlooked by a lot of people there and had really nice tree lines.

Like a lot of mountains, the whole Tram thing seems overrated at Jackson Hole. There is just so much terrain off of the Gondola, the Casper Lift, the Thunder Quad and the Sublette, it's hard to imagine doing more than one Tram ride per day. Also, you'd need a good week to really explore Jackson, and at least a couple of seasons to ski all the good lines on the mountain. It is just that big and fantastic. 

The only downside to the trip is that Corbet's Couloir wasn't open on Sunday (Saturday, the Tram line was too long all day to attempt a run at it). Corbet's has been on my skiing bucket list since I was a kid, so I guess I'll just have to make a return trip to Jackson at some point to rip it up. Let's hope it doesn't take another 34 years. The 15' cliff drop at the entrance might be pretty difficult at 68.

What's that you say? You want a GoPro edit? Well, here you go:

Grand Targhee/Jackson Hole, WY from Matt Charles on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Adirondack Backcountry Skiing - 1/4/14

After the most recent snowstorm, Ace and I had been itching to get out into the backcountry. We started the day at Gore, sat in a gondola full of a-holes, and met a -20 degree windchill at the top of Bear Mountain. After one run down Twister, we had had enough. The day that followed was way better.

We dropped a car at the Ski Bowl and headed to the Garnet Hill Lodge. Some friends of ours rented some tele equipment, and we were on our way. Originally, we were just going to take the Raymond Brook Ski Trail from Barton Mines road, but we decided to lengthen the trip. Here's a good description of the trails around the area. And here's a map (available at Garnet Hill, or in town at the Hudson River Trading Company):

We started out in high spirits on the Halfway Brook Trail towards William Blake Pond and The Vly:

After a few rolling hills, we reached William Blake Pond (remember, you can click on the pictures to enbiggen them):

There was a little bit of uphill to get to the next wetland:

We kept hiking for a while, a gradual up, then a gradual down towards the Vly:

Fishscaled, metal edged backcountry skis are the tool of choice. The tele setup does take a little getting used to, though, for the uninitiated (look out below!):

After climbing up from the Vly, crossing Barton Mines Road, and climbing up about 200 vertical feet from the start of the Raymond Brook Trail, we finally got some legitimate downhills in:

There was some history:

And a pretty nice downhill/traversing exit (with a couple of small uphills, too):

We started at Garnet Hill around 12:15 or so and came out at the Ski Bowl at 4:15. It took a little longer than anticipated (lots of photo breaks and a relaxed pace), but we still had a good amount of daylight to work with. This picture was taken as we left to begin the drive back up to Garnet Hill:

So, it was a pretty great day. Definitely a lot better than braving the crowds at the mountain. These are the kind of days that make me want to break out of the ski instructing grind and recapture winter weekends for myself - Good friends, great snow, empty trails, and freedom. Recipe for fun.