Posts filed under ‘Skiing’

Your Guide to Cody Peak

I have a photo of Cody Peak framed on the wall of my office. Whenever I need some inspiration I take a moment and ponder the mountain. It is so iconically Jackson and the terrain on it will challenge every fiber of your being. If you have ever skied off of the tram or Sublette chair at 892143_656237218345_1706851057_oJackson Hole Mountain Resort you have most likely notice the jagged peak to the South. Cody Peak is an extreme skier’s dream. With access just outside of the ski area boundary and a short boot pack, average joes can access terrain that is seen in extreme skiing movies. The peak is not for the faint of heart and I would recommend only for expert skier with extensive backcountry experience. There have been countless avalanches on Cody Peak as well as avalanche-related deaths on the peak. It is out of bounds, therefore you will need to have appropriate avalanche training and gear in order to ski the peak.

Cody Peak has numerous aesthetically pleasing lines. From the open powder field known as the Powder 8s to the extremely steep Pucker Face and narrow couloirs and chutes with names like “Once is Enough”, Cody has tons of skiable terrain. To reach Cody you leave the resort through the upper gate in Rendezvous Bowl and follow a mellow trail along the ridge to the bottom of the boot pack.

The HikeCody Hike

The Cody Peak boot pack is the scariest boot pack in the Jackson Hole sidecountry area. Depending on how much snow there is the first part of the boot pack can be more like a rock scramble.. with ski boots on. It’s a heart pounding experience. Plastic soles with no tread on icy rock is not a good combination. This, coupled with the fact that the peak is avalanches-prone means that it isn’t a good choice for early season skiing. The peak is best skied 10856563_791366682815_3695880803945005684_o(1)with a lot of snow, when the boot pack is more than likely to be filled in – with the exception of a few spots where you will need to scramble over rock outcroppings. Additionally, the peak is very susceptible to wind. If it is blowing more than 15MPH you most likely will not want to hike Cody, where you will be pummeled by wind during your entire hike.

Once you are above the scramble the hike becomes very mellow. You will hike down the ridge and around the back side of Cody Peak. Once you get to the top of the ridge you will have to make your decision on what you want to ski.

The Lines

There are 6 lines that you can ski off of the bootpack on Cody Peak.Cody Peak Named The first line that you will approach is called Pucker Face. It is an extremely steep face with a cliff ban in the middle. From the top all you can see is a roll over, right where the cliff ban is. It’s rather nerve wracking, not particularly knowing where the cliffs are. This face is also very prone to avalanches, so if you are the first one to ski it make sure you do a proper risk assessment.

The next line that you will reach is a bowl called No Shadows. It’s popular entrance is on the skier’s right of the bowl. Next up the ridge is Four Shadows, another steep bowl which is typically plagued by a large cornice on the top. The best way to enter Four Shadows is at the highest part of the bowl on the right hand side. Four Shadows and No Shadows are north facing, which means that they are good options during a drought when all of the southern aspects are baked or frozen. Up past Four Shadows is a north facing chute. Central is a hair raising, narrow no-fall chute with a mandatory air at the bottom. If you can ski it you most likely are a pro skier or should consider changing your career.

From the top of Four Shadows there is a bootpack traverse over to the south side of the peak. The first couloir that you reach is called “Once Is Enough.” With a sketchy entrance, this steep Once and Twice on Codyno-fall couloir is one of the most well known lines in the Tetons. You can see the line from the road, it’s the line in the notch of Cody Peak when viewed from the South. It’s a popular line to ski in the spring when the sun warms the snow and creates edgeable corn. If you look into Once and decide that it’s a little much for you, head up the peak further (to the East) and take a look at “Twice Is Nice.” As you can gather from the name of the line, it’s a more mellow option to Once with a nice hanging powder field that narrows into a choke. This steep line is equally fun during the springtime. These lines drop you into No Name Canyon. If you are looking to extend your day, keep right at the exit of both of the couloirs and take the traverse over to No Name.

Last, but not least, are the Powder 8s. This open powder field can be access by either skiing the North facing lines on Cody (Pucker Face, No Shadows, Four Shadows or Central), and then traversing over to the bottom of the bootpack, or by hiking the bottom of the bowl at the base of Cody Peak. The Powder 8 bootpack is relatively short and steep.. I mean, sweet. From the top of the Powder 8s you can ski the powder field or traverse over to No Name Peak or drop into No Name Canyon. The Powder 8’s are popular to lap.

So there you have it. I have skied all of the lines on Cody Peak except for Central and Once. The terrain is heart pumping and exhilarating. It is really amazing to have such challenging terrain just steps outside of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boundary. If you are a serious backcountry skier I definitely recommend fitting a hike up Cody Peak into your trip!


February 16, 2015 at 7:02 pm Leave a comment

Backcountry Skiing in Grand Teton National Park – The Delta Lake Shots

We have the luxury of having a breathtakingly beautiful National Park in our backyard. Alex on Delta Lake in the WinterThousands of people explore Grand Teton National Park during the summer    months, but during the winter the park becomes rather inaccessible due to the fact that they don’t plow the majority of the park road and you need to have skis or snowshoes to explore it. The road from the South Entrance in Moose is plowed until the Bradley and Taggart Lake trail head. On the north end it is plowed until Signal Mountain Lodge and Flagg Ranch (see A Trip to Polecat Hot Springs for a fun excursion in the north end of the Park). The South end of Grand Teton National Park is a haven for the winter enthusiast – there are lots of backcountry ski objectives, miles of trails for snowshoers and the Park grooms the road for cross country skiers.

I have done a number of different backcountry ski objectives in Grand Teton National Park, but last weekend’s objective was by far the prettiest. My friend Katie and I decided that we were going to sacrifice a long, consistent ski run for breathtaking views on a blue bird day. She suggested that we ski the Delta Lake shots. Delta Lake is one of my favorite lakes in Grand Teton National Park and I’ve hiked to it numerous times during the summer, but I’d never been to it in the winter, let alone ski down to it so we packed up the car and headed to the trail head. The one thing that I don’t like about skinning and skiing in Grand Teton National Park is that there are a bunch of small foothills that you must negotiate between the trail head and the beginning of the mountains. This means that there is some up and down on the skin track, which is one of my pet peeves – I hate having to go down just to go up again.

After the foothills we reached Bradley Lake. Katie Skinning Across Bradley LakeThe lake, which is frozen for the majority of the winter, provides a gorgeous up and close view of the Teton Range. After the lake, we finally reached the base of the mountains. We skirted around face of the mountains for a little bit and then began our ascent. Thankfully, someone had already put in a skin track. It took us 4 hours of zigging and zagging up the mountain side until we got our first view of the Grand Teton. It was absolutely gorgeous. Until we realized that we were on the wrong ridge. Thankfully there wasn’t a huge depression in the mountain to get to the ridge that we needed to be on. I did protest a little bit as we started downhill towards the correct ridge. After a short uphill we were standing on top of one of the Delta Lake Shots, staring down on Delta Lake. The mountains were silhouetted by a brilliant blue sky. I took about a million photos and then started to take off my skins and prepare for the descent.

After a quick assessment of the snow pack and Katie Skiing a Delta Lake Shotdiscussion of where our safe zones were, Katie dropped. I watched as she skied the smooth powder down to the agreed upon safe zone. I dropped after her and met her at the safe zone and then she skied down to the lake and watched from afar as I took my turns in the wide chute. The view from the lake was equally stunning.Grand Teton, Owen and Teewinot in Winter All I kept thinking was “this is heaven on earth.” I feel so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place! After taking more photos on the lake we skied out of Glacier Gulch and traversed across until we got closer to Bradley Lake. The snow had warmed up under the sun to soft corn. We both laughed giddily as we skied down to Bradley Lake. Once on the lake we put our skins back on and trekked back to the car.

We both agreed that a celebratory beer was in order so we drove to Dornan’s and cheers-ed to our ski tour while admiring the peaks that we were just skiing in. Dornan’s was packed with fellow skiers, all sharing the tales of their ski objectives and trading high fives. It’s a really cool atmosphere and it’s a must if it’s your first time touring in the Park. In fact, I took my Avalanche 1 test at Dornan’s after skiing in the Park for the first time for my avalanche course.

Please note – Backcountry skiing is inherently dangerous and I do not suggest that you try to go for a ski tour in Grand Teton National Park unless you have proper training, gear (beacon, shovel, and probe), are in excellent physical shape and have a good awareness of the area and your objective. With that being said, touring in the Park is an unbelievable experience and I highly recommend it to any serious backcountry enthusiast.

March 19, 2014 at 2:31 pm 1 comment

Skiing Corbet’s Couloir

Described as one of the most rowdy in bounds run in the United States, Corbet’s Couloir is not for the faint of heart. It has also earned the award of “America’s scariest ski slope.” With a potential drop of 10 to 30 feet, it is on the bucket list of most die hard skier and snowboarders. To reach the famed couloir you need to take the tram up to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. Once out of the tram, head into Corbet’s Cabin for some delicious waffles. Your choice of waffles include waffles covered in nutella, raspberry jam, butter and brown sugar or peanut butter and bacon. Between each scrumptious bite of nutella drenched waffle (my favorite), take the time to muster up the courage to ski one of the craziest lines of your life.

Once you are fortified with delicious waffle, ski the ridge on the left hand side (towards the tram) until you reach a roped off area. Take a few deep breaths and ski into the entrance. There is typically a line of people, waiting to ski it. If there aren’t any other people around I’d advise you to be a little Imagecautious. People may not be skiing it because the landing is super icy and you may want to reconsider skiing it. My favorite time to ski it is during the spring when the snow is a little more forgiving. Typically, by the end of the season there is a goat path into the couloir, created by skiers that side slip the drop. One year the side slip was so defined that as long as you could make the bank turn you could ski into the couloir. Other years it has a smaller drop (3 to 5 feet) than coming off the top of the couloir. It definitely requires dexterity but if you are a strong skier you should be able to accomplish it.

Once you are in the coulior you can spend some time hanging out in the cave on the left hand side of the run. During the springtime there is typically a crowd of skiers in the cave drinking beers and watching the spectacle that is Corbet’s – epic falls, amazing saves and great executions are all fun to watch. If you prefer not to ski the coulior I recommend that you ski the East Ridge Traverse into Tensleep Bowl and look up at the people trying to ski it. Or you can ski up to the edge of the couloir up top and watch people from above while your palms sweat.

I have skied it numerous times, primarily in the spring, (see photo on right) and a classic line is to ski Corbet’s to the Expert Chutes and then traverse into Toilet Bowl and finally ski Dick’s ACorbettsDitch to the bottom of the mountain. They call this line the Bamboozler run. If you are going to ski Corbet’s you should definitely try to complete the Bamboozler run. Without stopping. Haha, just kidding. Even if you aren’t the best skier around, if you love to ski you definitely need to at least stick your tips over the edge of Corbet’s and then take a deep breath and imagine skiing the famed run. Nothing beats the nerves that you have just before skiing a big line. It’s definitely earned its place as one of the most scariest ski runs in America.

March 7, 2014 at 6:21 pm 1 comment

Early Season Skiing at Grand Targhee

After the first major snow storm of the season everyone in the town of Jackson has the same thing on their mindImage – is it enough to ski? And if it is enough, will it have good coverage and be worth the effort? The ski resorts don’t open until Thanksgiving but the backcountry skiing season starts as soon as there is enough snow to slide on. Popular places to ski early season are Togwotee Pass, Teton Pass and Grand Targhee. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has a no uphill traffic policy that keeps backcountry skiers off of their slopes. Targhee, however, has no such policy. They have a sign at the base that says that the ski resort is closed and therefore hazards are unmarked but they do not prevent you from hiking or skinning the mountain.

Grand Targhee is quickly becoming one of my favorite early season ski spot. The base of the mountain sits at an elevation of 7,408 feet and boasts a 2,270 foot drop. Due to its high elevation it tends to have better coverage than Teton Pass and provides a more consistent run. On Teton Pass you may find yourself hiking or skinning up after running out of snow.

ImageTarghee is very popular early season so if you are looking for solitude I suggest you go somewhere else. The parking lot in the morning on weekends is full of backcountry skiers, families looking to sled and dogs. Lots and lots of dogs. Once you gather all your gear, head over to the base area and start skinning or hiking up the trail to the left of the Dreamweaver high speed quad. The trail is easy to follow up the mountain and takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to skin up to the top of the Dreamweaver lift. You can also split off to the left and ski the Blackfoot lift. If you ski Blackfoot be aware that you will have a short skin or hike to get out of the area.

Targhee consists of mostly mellow runs with awkward fall lines thaImaget drop you into gullies with long cat track run outs. Fortunately, they do groom the cat tracks – not necessarily for backcountry skiers but rather to compact the snow in preparation for the opening of the mountain. One of my favorite runs is skiers left off of the top of the Dreamweaver quad – Crazy Horse to Happy Hunting Ground. I find that the runs off of Dreamweaver aren’t as tracked because they deposit you in the base area instead of the top of the Shoshone lift. The benefit of being deposited at the top of the Shoshone lift is that it makes multiple laps easier. You don’t have to hike or skin out of the base area again.

While skiing Targhee early season is a ton of fun, know that it is still a backcountry area that is not being controlled for avalanches. I strongly suggest that you have your Avalanche 1 course completed as well as all of the backcountry tools necessary for backcountry travel – beacon, shovel and probe. The resort isn’t open so ski patrol will not be coming to your rescue in case of an accident. The early season snow pack can be very unstable due to the lack of depth. There have already been two avalanches reported this season and the ski resorts haven’t even opened yet! Information on those avalanches is available here and here. Be safe and go out and have fun sliding on some snow! Winter has arrived in Jackson Hole.

November 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm Leave a comment

The Town Hill – Snow King Resort

Fondly referred to as “the King,” Snow King Resort is a small little mountain located in downtown Jackson Hole. The first time I visited Jackson Hole I hardly noticed the mountain. Small, by western standards, at only 400 acres and 1571 vertical feet. However, Snow King is a great family mountain. Its steep, long runs also attract many ski racers – from high school race teams to the US Ski Team – who compete winter-long on it’s slopes.

The King offers cheap night skiing as well as snow tubing. As you head from theTown of Jackson at Night airport to the town of Jackson Snow King, with it’s 3 lifts and wide trails is unmistakable. It is a great place to go and let your kids explore by themselves while you sit in the lodge with a hot chocolate, watching your kids ski from the big picture windows in the lodge. It is a casual mountain, don’t expect anything fancy! But the mountain has heart.

During the early winter months the King barely sees the sun due to it’s north facing aspect. On chilly January days I pity those on the hill because they must be freezing their toes off! The spring months bring events such as Pond Skimming and the World Championship Hill Climb. These events are really fun to watch and are family friendly events.

Since Snow King Mountain is municipally owned, the public can hike or skin up the mountain at any time, even when it’s open! Though there is an etiquette to hiking and skinning the King when it is open so do some research before just strapping on your ski and skins and climbing up the main trail. You don’t want to be hit by a skier!

Many locals consider Snow King Resort “the town gym.” I am one of those Town at Sunrise from Snow Kingpeople. During the summer I try to hike up it at least one time a week, if not more. During the winter I like to skin up it in the morning before work. The best thing about it? I can bring my dog, Canyon. He loves to romp around in the snow, getting twice the work out that I do, running up and downhill numerous times. I have witnessed many beautiful sunrises from the mountain during the summer and winter alike.

I would encourage you to give the King a chance. If you are on a budget and looking to ski some steep groomers or narrow trees, spend a day at the King. Or if you are looking for something to do in the evening, try night skiing or tubing. The King has a lot to offer and is a vital part of the Jackson Hole community.

January 31, 2013 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment

The Allure of Backcountry Skiing

I took my avalanche level 1 certification class my first winter here in Jackson, 4 years ago. I was the only female out of 20 classmates. It didn’t bother me, I was used to playing with the boys. However, it is sometimes preferential for me to backcountry ski with women. They don’t push my skiing ability like the boys do (sorry gals) but it is nice to enjoy the hike or skin – it’s not a race to the top.Hiking Glory

Last night I went to an all female avalanche awareness night, sponsored by She Jumps. A lot of girls showed up to learn about safety in the backcountry and express their interest in becoming backcountry skiers. So what’s the allure when there is lift access at incredible mountains like Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or Grand Targhee? Why risk skiing out of bounds or in the backcountry?

After 4 years of skiing in the backcountry it really just hit me this past week when my friend and I had an especially tense ski episode in the backcountry. The snow pack wasn’t very stable and my friend got the snow to collapse (or whomp) underneath him when he was traversing just above a cliff ban. We spent about 10 minutes evaluating the snow pack and determining how we were going to get ourselves out of an area that we really didn’t want to be in.

Once we were safe back at the car I realized that we put ourselves at risk every time we go into the backcountry and to the backcountry skier, that skiing in backcountry terrain was worth risking your life for. Last winter was a clear example of that. There were multiple well respected backcountry skiers who died in avalanches last year. I’m not saying that I value skiing untracked powder over my life, every time I ski in the backcountry I am constantly evaluating the snow pack, weather, and data from the avalanche report. I am merely acknowledging the risk. I am more likely to die in an avalanche than someone who is a resort skier.

So what is the allure of backcountry skiing? Skinning Jackson PeakThe fresh untracked powder for one. That would be enough for me. However, I also enjoy spending time in the mountains on the ascent. Being with a friend or two, enjoying the quiet stillness and seeing the familiar landscape blanked in white snow. You see things differently. The woods that you thought you knew take on new meaning – the perfect glade run. Or the canyon that you enjoyed hiking in all summer becomes a scary terrain trap where avalanches can release on the slopes above you and bury you underneath feet of debris in the canyon. Yet winter allows you to freely to explore the terrain without sticking to established trails. Grand Teton National Park becomes unfamiliar as you ascend mountains where there are no trails during the summer months.

When you travel in the backcountry during the winter you need to constantly be thinking about the terrain that you are traveling through and be ready to have a back up plan for your descent. A good knowledge of the snow pack as well as a keen awareness of the terrain is essential if you decide to venture into the backcountry. Don’t just follow someones ski tracks because you don’t know how experienced they are or what their ski objective is.

Over the years backcountry skiing has become more popular and technology has become more advanced. However, remember just because you have an airbag pack doesn’t mean that you are invincible and shouldn’t get your avi 1 (avalanche level 1 certification). Education provides a solid foundation for safe backcountry travel

Also, don’t forget about the human factor. Many uneducated and inexperienced backcountry skiers and riders follow friends into the backcountry or sidecountry at the resort and don’t speak up when they feel uncomfortable. Do yourself a favor and spend the money to get educated if you are interested in skiing out of bounds. Knowing how to use your beacon properly as well as being able to evaluate the snow pack, terrain and weather are invaluable tools that an avalanche education will provide.

There are plenty of classes in Jackson Hole. If you are visiting Jackson and think that you want to get into backcountry skiing try to plan your visit to overlap with an avalanche class. The classes are 3 days and typically consist of 1 classroom day and 2 days in the “field. Not only will you get educated but you will get to play in the field out on Teton Pass and in Grand Teton National Park. You will learn where to go so that you can confidently ski Teton Pass or GTNP without blindly following someones tracks. Here are some of the companies in Jackson Hole that offer Avalanche Level 1, 2 and 3 courses:

Jackson Hole Mountain Guides

Exum Mountain Guides

American Avalanche Institute

If you are interested in skiing the sidecountry or backcountry on vacation and don’t want to get certified, I suggest that you hire a guide. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers guides for sidecountry and backcountry skiing and both Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and Exum Mountain Guides offers guided tours in the region (Teton Pass and Grand Teton National Park).

Either way, backcountry skiing is a ton of fun, just make sure that you get properly educated so that you may ski and travel safely. Also make sure that you always go out with a partner and someone that you trust. Experiences in the backcountry will strengthen your friendships and relationships. Just make sure that you feel comfortable talking with your backcountry partners about the snow pack and what makes you nervous or comfortable and why. Above all, stay safe, ski some powder and end your day exhausted but with a grin on your face because you earned your turns (and that beer!).

December 19, 2012 at 11:10 pm Leave a comment

Early Season Skiing in Jackson Hole

With Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Resort scheduled to open this coming Saturday the outlook is bleak at best, but I’m not complaining. Typically I would whine about the lack of snow, rainy weather, warm temperatures and the inability to make snow during this weather. However, after 3 winters in Jackson I have figured out how mother nature works.

She always evens things out.

Last year we had plenty of snow early season and then a drought in December and a drought again in February and March. I was skiing in October last year. This year I would have been skiing on pure sage brush in October, which isn’t exactly edgeable. I would be lying if I told you that I haven’t wanted it to snow more, but I understand now that the longer the wait, the more there will be when it really counts – in the heart of February and March. So I wait, not so patiently, for the beginning of the season. However, no season isn’t complete without an early season skin or hike up a mountain and taking a run through rock landmines, obscured by a few inches of deceptive powder.

I had some friends visiting last week and I knew that they were itching to ski. Teton Pass had a base of 6″ but Grand Targhee was reporting a base of 22″ – surely that was enough to keep us afloat and away from any snow snakes! I was encouraged also by the fact that they do some summer grooming, which means that they have cleared some trails of small boulders and sage brush. Skiing over a boulder or sage brush can result in a season ending injury.

I set my alarm for 7:30am but was up at 6:45am. I was so excited to go skiing! I hadn’t made turns since June. Last Thursday morning it was a gorgeous sunny day – not a cloud in the sky. A perfect day for a backcountry tour. We reached the parking lot of Targhee around 10:30am and were greeted by fellow skiers with the same idea. Excitement was in the air. We didn’t have to break trail, a plethora of other anxious skiers did that for us.

The first skin is always awkward. Over the summer you get used to hiking with little on your feet. All of a sudden you have a 6 foot extension of your feet that you must shuffle along up a narrow skin track. Fortunately, the beautiful weather and good company distracted me and we made it up the mountain in good time – not without some casualties. Towards the top I started feeling blisters forming on my heels. My friend, Nicole, ended up taking off her ski boots and socks three quarters of the way up to try to deflect pressure in her boot away from her already formed blisters.

However, once we reached the top of Targhee and took in the view off the back side looking off towards the Tetons, all was forgotten. We snapped some photos and prepared for the descent. The turns were everything that I was looking for – smooth and rockless. Unfortunately, two of my ski partners were not as fortunate. My friend Max ended up with a core shot and my friend Nicole had a long gash running down one ski. Such is the risk you take when you ski early season.

Once we reached the bottom we slapped high fives and headed to Grand Teton Brewing Company for a beer (or two). How nice it was – ski season had returned. I realized that’s what I had been missing: not the act of skiing itself, but the enthusiasm and camaraderie which skiing fosters.

For many locals, ski season is in full swing. My neighbor does consistent dawn patrols, disregarding the fact that the conditions are mediocre at best. I think that his motivation is in the spirit of skiing, not the act itself. I look forward to taking many more turns this winter and sharing the experiences with my ski buddies. There is nothing better than having a beer with friends after a great ski day. Here in Jackson our friendships aren’t just solidified by common interests, but rather the experiences that we share.

November 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

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