Continuation of my TR from Vail.
Jackson Hole Bear Crew:
SkiinginJackson & 2 of his 4 children, Tetonpowderjunkie, BobPeters, skiierx, Rabbit33, Fireball, Sleeper, Dutyfree, Bazzer
Assorted buzzed Floridians from The Miami Ski Club Cartel, Fireball’s sister and her beau, Several wild hoofed mammals, and Groucho Marx’s twin brother.
Grand Targhee Bear Crew:
HarkinBanks, Sleeper, Bazzer
Friendly busload of moderately drunken New Englanders
Saturday, Feb. 21st
Early morning wake-up has me behind the helm of our nightmare-green rental car, making tracks over the snowy Vail Pass in the wee hours, bound for Denver airport. Arrive in good order and put Bazzer Jr. on a flight home. Then hop my jet to Jackson. Highlights of the cab ride to Teton Village include passing an enormous herd of elk, and a stop at a package store to fill my prescription for medicinal Jameson’s.
As this is my first visit to Jackson, I quickly unpack, and then head off to the Mangy Moose, stopping on the way to make the obligatory tourist snapshot of the new Tram.
First night spent with some friends from the Miami crowd. Eating, boozing and schmoozing at The Moose.
First day at the hill finds old Florida buddy and new Bear Sleeper at the lifts before they open. Sleeper is one of my usual ski companions whenever we’re on the same ski club trip. He’s not been to JH for about 10 years, and though I’ve studied the Bob Peters Guide, I’m still a newbie, so after a few warm-up laps we opt to join one of the resorts Mountain Tours. We’re joined by a small mob of Miami Mafioso, including another new Bear, Dutyfree. The mob heads off under the guidance of ex-Bronx resident and current JH ambassador Bob.
Dutyfree knows how to live well. A devotee of fine food, good wine, beautiful women, and raucous song, he very rarely goes without any of these for very long. Oh yeah. He likes to ski fast.
The pleasant 1½-hour tour gives us a sense of breadth of the massive terrain at Jackson, and then it’s time for Sleeper and I to cut off from the group and get into some real trouble. Our first trip up the Tram leads to us making laps on the Thunder and Sublette chairs for the better part of the day, and we’re both feeling pretty whipped by the time that the lifts close at 4:00. I thought that our first day offered us a grand introduction to JH. Little do I know, but even better days lie ahead.
Monday morning is overcast and a bit snowy. My constant ski companion Sleeper and I hook up with my newest internet Bear buddies, Fireball, skiierx, and Rabbit33. Just before the lifts open, the miracle of the cell phone yields a call from non other than Bob Peters. Seems he’s at the hill and has some time to show our ragged troop of rubes around his mountain. Way cool!
Just before my phone rang, I was trying to make a photograph of Groucho Marx’s twin brother, but was distracted by skiierx as he struck this manly pose, upstaging the aging celebrity.
BobPeters suggests that we hop on the Tram, and none of our gang is nearly foolish enough to question this proposal. (Well, maybe I’m foolish enough, but knew enough to keep my mouth shut.) Unloading at the top of Rendezvous Bowl, we click in and proceed to experience a half-day whirlwind tour of the upper reaches of JH. Spectacular. Would have seen more except we spent a bit of time in the clouds, and hard skiing kept my goggles in a nearly perpetual state of fog. Señor Peters is a tremendous skier/companion/guide, and all around credit to the human race. I was too busy skiing, laughing, and breathing for me to bother to stop and make any photos. Tough luck. The group breaks up after a quick lunch break. Bob has business to attend to, skiierx’s back is begging for Tylenol after a recent injury, and Rabbit33’s boots are making him decidedly unhappy. Fireball, Sleeper and I spend the rest of the day poking around and having some more fun.
Fireball plays photo-slut well. Takes direction literally when I tell him to ski close to the camera…
Sometimes a bit too close
Look where we are! Nice place for a quick rest in soft snow in Saratoga Bowl.
I got to ski 12 of 13 days, with one travel day thrown it to the mix, so things get kind of blurry in my memory. The days, friends, and other particulars get jumbled in my head, so details and events are not in any cohesive order from this point on. We had sunshine, fog, nuking snow, high winds, powder days, heavy crud, crunchy early morning groomed cat-tracks, and a bit of slush at the bottom. All gets kind of blended together. Skiing up on the higher reaches of the mountain was universally excellent for the duration of my stay. North facing aspects were particularly fine.
Tuesday, (I think)
Fireball and his sister are way too chipper. They offer line dancing lessons before the lifts open. I gracefully decline.
Sleeper is the skiing equivalent of the Energizer Bunny. Put him on most any hill, and he’ll get down in his own relentless fashion. He’s been using a par of Rossignol carvers since we first met, and as Fireball is rocking his new Gotamas, he generously offers Sleeper his mid-fat Nordica Hell Cats for the day.
Fireball links smooth turns under the Casper lift.
THE MOOSE Part 1
Nearing the base of the run-out from Saratoga Bowl, almost at the Apres Vous chair, I spied this cow and calf foraging. I’ve never seen a moose before, so told Sleeper and Fireball to go off and ski. I wanted to stay with the moose for as long as they’d tolerate my presence. (No kidding. I actually do live for this kind of stuff. In my “real” life, I’m something of a wildlife advocate.) I was granted approximately 20 minutes of relative solitude with the pair before they got spooked and headed off across the ski hill. Wish that I had a more sophisticated camera than my wife’s point and shoot, but I’ll just have to be happy to have had those moments for myself.
End of the day has me stop by Jackson Hole Sports to make my introduction to SkiingInJackson. He’s been enormously friendly and helpful to me through the Epicski forum, and turns out to be even more pleasant in person. I’ll get to spend much more time with SIJ in the days to come. I’ll spend several hours in the shop watching and learning as he exercises his craft helping Rabbit33 with some comfort issues, and fitting Fireball with a new pair of Salomon Falcon 10’s. My own 10’s are almost perfect, but I like to learn about almost any aspect of skiing, so am glad to chill and enjoy the company.
Since joining the forum, I’m hardly ever at a loss when it comes to finding Bears to share turns or drinks with.
Wednesday is Family Day
Early call from home yields some good news and some bad news.
Good news is that my son scored a goal in his varsity Lacrosse game.
Bad news is that his team lost 9-1. The Kid’s goal came when the score was 3-0, so he felt good that he scored against the opponent’s first string, and did not simply pick up a garbage goal.
Aforementioned SkiingInJackson arranges a delightful surprise for the Bear Posse. He shows up on the hill about an hour after the lifts open, and has with him his 10 year old son, and 7 year old daughter. Together this threesome constitutes fully half of that delightful family. We meet the SIJ clan at the base of the Thunder lift and the rest of the morning is spent in a whirlwind of fun, thrills, and feats of lunatic daring.
Last night SIJ told me that he does not ski steeps or moguls. Not to make too much of a fuss about it, but he lied to me.
His two children are two of the most wonderful, curious, personable, kind, considerate, adventurous young people that you could ever care to meet. They also rip on the hill. REALLY RIP.
SIJ Jr. scouts the groups line down Split-Rock…
Then straight-lines the run-out.
Do not let the cute little princess jacket fool you. This adorable looking girl is a blessed mountain goat on the hill. Not sure, but she may be able to spit fire too.
Showing Daddy the way to get it done.
SIJ & Fireball collude to make Rabbit33’s next run even more exciting than the last one.
After a few hours of skiing, the sky opens up and it starts just nuking snow. I offer to play sweeper and keep an eye on one of the kids to ensure that they don’t get separated in the heavy weather. Big mistake. Following a 7 year old who does not care one whit about gravity, will find and launch off of any and all kickers, who has all of 24” of ground clearance and likes to ski trees is not for the faint of heart. Good thing for me that this arrangement only had to last a run or two before we stopped to fuel up. After floundering in their wake on the mountain, I regain a bit of dignity with the kids by giving them an impromptu slide show on my iPhone during lunch. They are an attentive, inquisitive and joyous audience. During our break SIJ decided to take his family off the hill, and get himself ready to go to work. The remaining Bear crew takes it a bit easier in the afternoon, making a few powdery runs on relatively tame terrain, then hopping into the Moran Woods for some sweet tree skiing.
THE MOOSE Part 2
Sleeper heads down through the trees and is soon out of sight. A few seconds later, he gives a call on my cell phone. He’s spotted another moose, and directs me into position to try and make some more photographs. Way cool again. Alas, the camera in my pocket is not my own, and rather than take the chance of ruining someone else’s property, I content myself with the chance to see the magnificent beastie.
Post-ski party moves back to the boot shop, where SIJ fits Fireball for a new pair of Falcons. Note the surgical precision with which a pro affixes space-age materiel, duct tape, to the boot liner.
Thursday, riding on a pair of demo K2 Coombas, my last day at JH yields yet another most welcome surprise. TetonPowderJunkie gets in touch and we hook up at the top of Bivouac Woods. He’s about as strong a skier as you could hope to share some time with and reminds me of one of his favorite sayings; “Welcome to Jackson Hole. Now prepare to take your beating.” He’s a fabulous guide and has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ski instructor jokes. Great company in all regards.
I gain confidence by simply following him, and in fact enjoy one of my best runs of the week that morning during a foray down the Expert Chutes. High winds and nuking snowfall continues through most of the morning and into the afternoon. TPJ takes his leave following a lunch break, and my by now usual mob of Rabbit33, Sleeper, Fireball, and skiierx heads off in search of yet more adventure.
Turns in the trees.
This is when things began to get a bit weird, and our group got scattered by choice and misadventure. I took the chance to make some last photos of the gang early during our run, but we lost touch with Sleeper and Rabbit33. Fireball is just itching for a few more laps in the steeps, so we part ways when we near the bottom of Moran Woods. I make my way down the trees with skiierx, moving at a leisurely pace when I encounter….
THE MOOSE Part 3
Yet again, for the third consecutive day I am apparently blessed to see one of these large hoofed mammals. A large cow is just hanging around on a cat track in the midst of the Moran Woods. I came to a stop about 30’ away from the moose, and slightly down hill from her, when I slip off my gloves which are still attached to my pole straps, and slowly reach into my pocket to take out my camera. It was then that skiierx came out of the trees above the cat track, and glided to a stop between the moose and me. I quietly gesture at the moose hoping to bring her to skiierx’s attention. Just in time, X looks at the moose, and she looks back. She then takes a few steps in X’s direction, and then starts to trot-charge. For some unknown reason, X asked me, “Do you think we ought to go?”
My only response was of course non-verbal, as the gentle swishing of my skis on the soft snow was the only sound that I made. Clutching the camera in my right hand, and my poles with the gloves still attached to the pole straps in my left, I made some of the fastest, smoothest turns of my life down the treed slope. Great fun in retrospect.
BTW, Sleeper who was on a pair of fat Rossi demos for the day, had the toe binding rip out of one of his skis. To his eternal credit, 33 stayed with his buddy and thus the two of them avoided a potentially life threatening trampling by an enraged moose.
With Fireball long gone, and Sleeper headed back to the shed, the unholy trio of me, X and 33 are left to our whiles for the last lap of the day. X & 33 had a great time earlier in Casper Bowl, and I’m eager to join them there for my final hurrah at Jackson. They did not tell me however about the cat track that you’ve got to take in order to access the bowl, referred to as “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” They clued me in about half way up the gondola, so I didn’t have too much time to worry about my major organs, bones, or remaining teeth.
Still nuking snow, the “wild ride” was as advertised, but the fluffy soft lines in the bowl were well worth the price of admission. Thus ended my first trip skiing at Jackson.
Friday morning found Sleeper and me on a bus and heading for Grand Targhee. Chock full of a group of hung-over Bostonians, the bus made a rather sedate journey through beautiful country to GT. To be honest, after having been beaten up by JH for the past few days, I was looking for a bit of a rest from my vacation. Moderate terrain and soft, forgiving snow was just what I was hoping for and that’s exactly what we found at GT. An added bonus was the perfect blue-sky day that greeted us. Not a lot of trees at GT, so it was very nice to have ample light to see on the wide open mountain and to enjoy some truly spectacular views.
What more could I possibly wish for? A powder day? Check! How about the companionship of a friendly local Bear? Sound good? Well, that’s exactly what I got. Sleeper and I were graced to share a few hours with HarkinBanks in his own stomping grounds. HB was as smart, kind, and generous in person as he’s been in our past dialogue on the Epic forum. I could not have had a nicer day on the hill, and in his company.
Hey Bazzer, isn’t this spot a little steep to stop and make a photo?
A few beers in the afternoon helped the Boston crowd loosen up quite a bit, and the return bus trip was a friendly, jovial rolling party. A festive end to a perfect trip.
Thanks to all of the Bears who helped make my two week foray into Colorado and Wyoming such a satisfying, enjoyable experience.