Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Jackson Hole Summer and Winter Tales........

I was part of an infamous summer in Jackson Hole when I was only 13 years old.........

Chaos as fire overcomes Yellowstone national Park
The year was 1988 and my mom and I embarked on an epic, 17 day road trip from Iowa to Yellowstone and back again.  We began our vacation in earnest in the Black Hills and made our way to Denver where my mom had a conference for 5 days.  After the 'work' was over we headed north to Cheyenne, WY and then made our way west toward Jackson Hole. I remember thinking that everyone drove too fast in Wyoming and that it was very windy on such a flat road.
Then, there they were, the Tetons!  My mom took some time to tell me about the mountains as we moved ever closer to them.  That they were not part of the Rockies, but instead were a much younger set of mountains.  She went on about how the Appalachian Mountains were once the size of the Rockies, or even bigger, but they had gotten old and were eroding away.  How the Rockies were younger and had eroded less and, amazingly enough, the Tetons, young as they were, grew still and inched their way higher and higher over the years.
Jackson's Main Drag
As we got closer and closer the horizon seemed more and more magical, the landscape was untouched save a few ranches spread far out from one another, against the banks of the life giving Snake River. Then, out of nowhere we were in a town.  As we cruised down the street tourists and cowboys co-mingled while the cars crawled down the street with their rubber-necked drivers.   This was Jackson!!  We passed an honest to goodness saloon, The Virginian and made our curvy way up through the town.  It was the first time I had seen a real ski resort and I remember thinking, A. that it looked REALLY scary and B. That I totally wanted to come back and try it one day!!  Now keep in mind, at this point I was seeing Snow King.
Wondering what Cowboys would ever want with a million dollar bar, we decided to park and take a walk around the town.  Dipping in and out of gift shops and galleries filled with cowboy and Indian paintings we made our way up and down the street.  After an hour or two in town we hopped back in the car and headed to our final destination for the evening, a guest ranch just outside of Teton National Park.  The following day we headed into the park for our amazing journey with Nature.

Fire forces Grant Village to Close
For those who may have forgotten or are too young to remember, 1988 is a year that went down in forest fire history.  Not only was the summer rife with fire, Yellowstone was in the middle of its worst fire season in history.  As we chased and were chased by fire, those days we spent in Yellowstone were incredible.  We were evacuated from Grant Village during our trip and considered going back to Jackson if we could not find lodging.  Fortunately, Canyon Village had space for us, a few days earlier than our reservation.  We managed to see Old Faithful just days before it was closed for the fires and witnessed the blaze 'eating' its way through the forest as we stood on the top of the ridge by Tower Fall.  By the time we left the park on July 25th, we needed headlights to negotiate some of the roads because of the smoke that was constantly switching directions with the ever fickle wind.  It was the most memorable vacation we took together.
Fire Closes Old Faithful Village
Fast forward 10.5 years to early 1999.   I moved to Colorado in 1997 to become better at snowboarding and it worked.  With a preparatory trip to Telluride in late January to get some 'steeps' under my belt, I felt ready to tackle Jackson Hole's ski resort when some friends invited me to join them for a trip in February.  The route to Jackson was different from the one my mother and I had taken, but even ten years later I still felt like those ranchers in their Corvettes were driving awfully fast.  We stopped in Green River this time and then headed north to the Tetons.  I was still impressed with their size.  Jutting fiercely into the sky, the Grand Teton looked even bigger than I remembered and my mom's words rang in my ears ...'still growing'.

Terrain, terrain, terrain!!!!
As we approached town, evening was upon us and it was disappointing not being able to see the 'huge' Snow King Mountain I remembered from my youth.  We had friends to stay with in Wilson so after unpacking and bringing our gear in we headed into Jackson for some fun and sushi!  It started snowing during our meal and as we finished, our group ran outside in true tourist style to take pictures under the elk antler arches in Town Square.  The next morning greeted us with 10 new inches of snow in the valley; over 18 had fallen on the mountain, score!! We geared up and headed to Teton Village, the plow banks on the side of the road were almost taller than the Isuzu Rodeo we were in!  When we got to the tram it was mobbed with people, but with a capacity of close to 70 the line moved quickly and soon we too were zipping the 11 minutes up to the top of the mountain.  'See the sleeping Indian?' my friends said, I was fighting vertigo from the sheer steepness of the place, Snow King huge? No, this was HUGE!!

Now, as bravely excited as I was I opted out of doing Corbet's on my first run and stuck mainly to Rendezvous and the trees just off of it.  We flew up Sublette chair for our next run and ran the trees through Cheyenne Bowl a few times before heading down to lunch.  After we had re-fueled it was time to hit lower Casper and Woolsey Woods became a favorite for the day!!  With three or four post lunch T to B runs (top to bottom, as they say in the ski towns) our group was beat and headed to the (in)famous Mangy Moose in Teton Village for Apr├Ęs.  This lively venue is NOT to be missed and should be on anyone's list for a Jackson Hole MUST see.  At my request our group had dinner at the Virginian and I called my mom from the lounge just to tell her where I was!!

A Thick Blanket of Clouds Covers the Lower Resort
The next morning delivered 15 inches in the valley and almost two feet on the mountain!  When we arrived to the tram the clouds hung low over the resort and the trip straight up into them seemed foreboding and a little scary as we watched the car disappear into the gray fluff.  It was still snowing and parts of Casper were being bombed for avalanche control.  When our turn for the tram came I was smashed against the window and watched quietly as the clouds swirled and swept around the car ascending to the top of the resort.  As I lost my eyes in the cloud cover I saw the world was gaining a golden tint, sun was coming through, joy! The tram car crested the mountain and moved to its resting spot for disembarking, the snow was sparkling on the ground and sun was blazing down on us.  The storm was hanging so low, we had broken through it and now had a bluebird day at Jackson!  The view was surreal looking down on the impenetrable blanket of thick, gray clouds covering the mountain and valley below.

Descending into the Great Unknown!!
The skiing that day was epic.  Our group was fearless as we careened through the clouds whooping and hollering at each other while swooshing fresh snow to our faces.  Since it was cloudy on the mid mountain we stuck to the trees again and after lunch headed to the newly opened lower Casper for some stellar freshies.
That evening we skied Snow King for the novelty of night skiing (what a sweet little resort) and enjoyed a home cooked dinner before heading back to Colorado the next day.

When we woke on our day of departure it had snowed yet again.  We decided to push back our departure and skied a half day before hitting the road for the epic 8 hour ride home.  It was a tough go, driving for so long after all that fantastic powder, but we did it and arrived home just before midnight.

I feel very blessed to have had two 'trips of a lifetime' to Jackson Hole and the surrounding area.  Both summer and winter are amazing times to be in this little slice of heaven.  From the scenery to the iconic shops, bars and restaurants, summer and winter days alike can be filled with adventure that is distinctly Jackson.  The team is headed up to the resort in just a few weeks, so check back to see what NEW adventures have been found!

 <3 =)  Irish

Want to experience Jackson for yourself?  Call us today, we can get you THERE!!  866-981-SNOW