Today may have been one of the most bi-polar days of skiing I've seen at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in my nearly 40 years of skiing here. The numbers on the morning ski report sounded pretty good - 8" of new snow in the last 24 hours, 3" since the lifts closed yesterday.
A closer look, however, suggested a little caution...
The 6am temperature at the top of Rendezvous Mountain was 21 degrees( F), and the average windspeed was around 35mph. Windy, but not bad for temperature. The temperature at the BOTTOM of the ski hill, however, was THIRTY NINE degrees. Not only that, there was nearly 1.5 inches of water equivalent in that 8" of new snow. That means extremely dense snow.
I went up the early gondola and when we were cleared to ski at about 9:10am, we immediately found a noisy little ice layer on top of the snow. It didn't ski BADLY, exactly, but it sure sounded weird. Got on the Thunder chair and had to knock about 3/4 of an inch of rime/ice off the bars of the chair.
At this point, our expectations for the skiing were very low. Got off Thunder and skied down the edge of Grand to the Sublette chair. Grand was smooth and untracked and we seemed to be above the elevation of the ice layer. On the way up Sublette, we watched three guys just BLAST down Flip Point and Laramie Bowl and our hopes started to soar. They were skiing on top of what appeared to be a wind-buffed surface that was smooth as creamery butter.
Got off Sublette and flew down Mudslide/Dogface to Flip Point, onto Pepi's Run, and hung a huge left turn into the upper shoulder of Alta Chute #1. All the bumps from the day before had been utterly eradicated by the wind and new snow and we just screamed down A-1 at the highest speed I've ever skied it. Whoa!
Back on Sublette, the clouds parted just a little and we could see over to the Cirque. There wasn't a single track on the main face of the Cirque, so that's where we headed. We came by the ski patrol director on the Cirque Traverse just as he and some of the patrollers were taking down a closed sign. I was the very first member of the public on the high traverse, sidestepping and poling over to the far end of the Cirque next to Pair-A-Chutes. Dropped in and skied about four Super-G turns all way down the entire face of the Cirque, just skimming over this smooth, dense, flawless surface. It was fer-sure my best run of the year, in a season that's already been full of great skiing.
After a little side trip into lower Toilet Bowl, we skied down to the base of Thunder chair. There was a big line for the lift, so we decided to traverse over to North Colter Ridge and ski down to the tram. HUGE MISTAKE! North Colter was deep, thick, heavy snow with about a 1/2" ice layer on top. The ice wasn't thick enough to support me on about two-thirds of the turns, so I would alternate between bouncing off clumps of frozen junk and dropping through the crust into a thick sludge that was almost impossible to get back out of. It was easily (by a factor of about ten) the very worst run so far this season.
So there you have it - best run of the season up high, worst run of the season down low. All within the space of about three minutes and a thousand vertical feet.
You gotta love skiing at Jackson Hole.
(And by the way, our total snowfall for the season is now over 280", it's snowing, and there's a lot more snow in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow.)