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Mid-March ski trip - Jackson Hole or somehwere else? - Page 2

post #31 of 35

Just thought I'd report back in.  I visited Jackson Hole March 27-31.  We had over 30 inches over the timeframe, each day with as few as 1 inch to as many as 15.  It rained in the village on Saturday and Sunday, but snowed a ton up top -- very dense and deep snow.  Got cold Sunday night and put 8 inches on top of the dense snow.  It was unbelievable yesterday.

 

We did avoid the Hobacks and lower (anything below Thunder) faces the whole 5 days.  Our routine was to ski high -- Rendevous, Cheyenne, Laramie bowls, and both the north and south facing faces of the ridges depending on time of day and snow cover.  It was excellent skiing the whole trip.  Base was deep.  At the beginning of the trip, there was a hard slab underneath that rewarded the north facing faces.  By Sunday, it was hard to find that layer.

 

We didn't ski the tram on Saturday or Sunday -- it was too white to have much fun (if any) in complete whiteout conditions. 

 

A excellent trip, and one of the best skiing experiences I've had at Jackson.  Personally, I can be happy skiing 5 days of Thunder and Sublette without the need for any additional terrain (except for that most excellent groomer: Sundance).  Of course, afternoon laps at the end of day on Apres Vous are incredible -- skiing the slush/corn is almost as good as powder skiing.  Of course, we didn't do that on the deeper powder days (saturday, Sunday, and Monday).

 

Again, Jackson can and does have great skiing in late spring.  You just have to have the skills to ski the north facing terrain (Thunder, Hoops Gap, Tower Three, Paintbrush, Alta Chutes, Bivouac, Cheyenne Bowl, Wally World, Bivouac Trees, etc.).  And if you get a bunch of snow, a lot of other terrain is fantastic.  Our best runs were in the Expert Chutes.

 

Mike

post #32 of 35
Quote:
We had over 30 inches over the timeframe, each day with as few as 1 inch to as many as 15. 

You can consider yourself lucky.  Only 10% of winter weeks at Jackson get 30 inches or more of new snow.  The week prior to yours got zero and would not have worked out so well.

Quote:
We did avoid the Hobacks and lower (anything below Thunder) faces the whole 5 days. 

Jackson is a huge mountain and I have no doubt it was great skiing with that much new snow.  But to me the Lower Faces can have some of the best lift-served powder skiing in the world, and I'd prefer to be there when that terrain is worth skiing.

 

It is telling to me that you had a 90th percentile week in late March and the Lower Faces still weren't worth skiing.  For areas like Jackson with exposure issues, the risk rises rapidly each later week that you go.  So while I think late February/early March is not optimal, groomers and the upper half of Rendezvous rate to be decent or better most of the time.  By late March you need that 90th percentile week IMHO.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 4/2/14 at 11:08am
post #33 of 35

One of the reasons that the exposure issue at Jackson is "under the radar" for most people is that it is extremely rare in the western United States for a ski area to have more south than north exposure.

 

In the course of collecting info for Chris Steiner's ZRankings website last December, I had to estimate exposures for 182 ski areas on his list using Google Earth.  Here's the short list of western US areas with more south than north exposure:

 

Mt. Shasta Ski Park
Montana Snowbowl
Whitefish Mountain Resort
Donner Ski Ranch
Mt. Spokane Ski Area
Showdown Ski Area
Turner Mountain
Jackson Hole
Willamette Pass 

 

Many of these places are small or obscure and most are in the far Northwest with chronically cloudy winter climates. Snowbowl and Jackson are the only places on that list with a large amount of south facing steep terrain, which is much more sensitive to direct sun than more moderate terrain. 

 

In the Alps there is much more variability in ski area exposures.  My counterpart in the Alps for analyzing ski conditions is Fraser Wilkins and I highly recommend his website http://www.weathertoski.co.uk/weather-snow/the-snow-quality-equation/ .

He believes that in most cases altitude/exposure are more important to overall ski reliability than snowfall. 

 

Fraser and I have different perspectives from concentrating on the Alps vs. North America.  North America has many more very high snowfall areas, where that can be an overriding consideration.  To my knowledge there are only 3 areas in the Alps that get as much snow as Jackson, while in North America there are at least 25 that get more.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 4/3/14 at 10:51am
post #34 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

One of the reasons that the exposure issue at Jackson is "under the radar" for most people is that it is extremely rare in the western United States for a ski area to have more south than north exposure.

 

I'd say that "extremely rare" would actually make Jackon's issue more noticeable instead of flying "under the radar". I'd say that being so big and with good amount of average snowfall is what makes the problem not too much of a problem.

 

Or maybe you meant by rare the fact that people are not aware of the issue and don't talk about it, in that case I understand the fact that being unaware makes the problem go away! :-)

post #35 of 35

Since nearly all destination resorts have a significant proportion of north facing terrain, particularly the steeps, it's not a factor that many people even think about when booking a trip.  I know that was the case for me in 1986.

 

Because steep terrain preserves better than flat terrain when facing north, I've had to explain to many people that the opposite is true when facing south.  Many people have not skied enough south facing steeps to realize this.  We have Mt. Baldy here in SoCal so I learned this relatively early.

 

Quote:
I'd say that being so big and with good amount of average snowfall is what makes the problem not too much of a problem.  

Much truth here.  If a ski area had Jackson's topography and orientation but was in a warmer western state like Colorado with only 250 inches snowfall, it would have marginal skiing most of the time.  Jackson's cold temperatures and the inversions also minimize the problem early to mid-season.  Late season you need that "good amount of average snowfall" while you're there.  But we all know that snowfall is erratic.  Even at Jackson's relatively abundant level, 40% of advance booked weeks will have no days with 6+ inches new snow.  For the places that get 250 it's more like 60%, so for them snow preservation is even more important.   See Taos as having many exact opposite characteristics vs Jackson.  If we ever have a Gathering at Taos (which I think would be a good idea) I will be arguing forcefully that it be held AFTER President's Week.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 4/6/14 at 1:14pm
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