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Jackson Hole backcountry guided tour (->Eugene)

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
let me follow up on my JH backcountry question:

I took a half-day guided tour with the "new backcountry experience program", sold by the ski school and provided by the JH guides. I did not ask for a specific guide, and Chris Laveroni was assigned to me. We first did a warm-up run inbounds, and then, being a backcountry first-timer, i first got training for the avalanche tracker. Then, we went on to the highest backcountry gate, checked the posted weather and avi report. Out-of bounds, we looked for avi signs (cravasses, hangovers, cones, secondary hazards like falling rock and ice blocks). Route finding (protected routes vs. easier when avi danger is moderate or low), snow analysis followed. For the snow analysis, Chris dug a deep hole, going through the different layers of snow, and various techniques to determine avalanche danger. At this point, let me tell you, that the backcountry experience program does not replace full backcountry and avalanche training, but for an initial familiarization it was excellent. After the snow check, we went on to do some skiing in the Cody bowl. The conditions have been significantly different from inbounds, because i could lay first tracks even after several days without snowfall. I can't remember having skied day-old, untracked pow before. Duh, that felt like i've never been on skies before, that stuff immediately sends you on the rails (on shaped skies), and needs much more attention than fresh pow or whatever you ski inbounds. Anyway, expect all sorts of conditions. I've been all over the inbounds-place for several days before, which was a good preparation. Other than inbounds, there's quite some poling required. Bring long poles, if you have some. The backcountry is quite physically challenging, so i was happy to do the backcountry experience on the final day of my trip, in particular after my move to the East Coast, which made me a flatlander.
I am totally intrigued about the backcountry experience program. Chris was an excellent guide. Even after 20 years in JH, he still is totally excited about this place and the backcountry. He loves to share his excitement with you which makes it an overall positive experience.
BTW: Guides do not ask for tips, but appreciate it a lot, living in Jackson Hole is expensive.

This is how the backcountry experience program works (it's not posted in detail on the web page, so let me add a few comments):
The idea is to gather a group of single individuals who pay $120 (incl. tax) each. In my case, the group was only 1 person, me. If there are no guides available (i.e. they are assigned to "regular" groups which pay the $300+), the backcountry experience does not take place. Expect this to happen on the weekend. If a group based on this program leaves is determined on the day before. For me, it worked best to check with the ski school at 8am to see if i could join a group on the same day. The ski school checked with the guides, who, on Sunday, told the ski school i could go Monday. I payed the $120, and got a ticket for Monday morning.
In the morning, meet the guide at 8:30 at the loading dock of the tram. Chris was there, the guy of the ski school who was supposed to coordinate all skiers with the different guides and instructors was not, so there was a little confusion, but finally the skiers found there respective guides or instructors. Once that's figured out, the guide and the group bypass the line at the tram (:->), and get on. The $120 does not include the lift ticket, so get one before you meet the guide.
Equipment (shovel, avi tracker, backback) is provided by the guide (they have a small cabinet at the loading dock, where it is being returned to later). Be ready to ski with the backback and an avalanche tranceiver. They do not weight too much, though.
post #2 of 2

Thanks a lot for the first-hand info. Next year is not soon enough.
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