Teton Pass Turns and Avalanche Fear

January 3rd, 2009

The Faja catching some pow on First Turn - Teton Pass

Interesting cloud strata colors on Teton PassRight before the avalanche danger went through the roof in the Tetons I got a few laps in up on Teton Pass. This is the first year in the sixteen that I’ve lived Out West that I didn’t have a season pass at Grand Targhee, so, all I could really afford to do during my week at home for Christmas was backcountry. Which is not normally a bad thing. The powder is fresh, the crowds smaller, and I’m getting in shape for racing so it’s, like, win-win-win. But it was problematic this year as the rain crust buried in the mountain snowpack got loaded with tons of fresh making backcountry skiing a dubious proposition at best.

The trip home from Bozeman was - as it often is - a tediously long one on skating-rink roads in a white-out blizzard. This is enough to give any red-blooded powder skier a glint in his eye and Traffic jam on the Glory Bowl bootpackI don’t normally mind, but it was particulary bad this year and my brother and I got stuck in Rexburg for one night becuase all the roads to Teton Valley were closed. Suprisingly (and thankfully) this is the first time this has happened to me in almost six years of commuting, so, it was time. But it meant we were late for the morning freshies! We got home at noon the next day and I hurried up to the Pass on a solo mission while the Fam skied Targhee. I’m generally an avi-cautious guy and don’t go solo shrapling like this, but I figured I would just play it safe and ski the trees by the Glory bootpack. This was before all the avi danger anyway. I made two laps in two hours, and headed home safe and satisfied.

The cluster on top of Glory

The next day I went back to the Pass with my Dad. Over the course of the last year he assembled a pretty nice touring setup (Fritschis on Rossi Powder Birds) I was stoked to make some turns with the Old Man. Unfortunately, he forgot his pack and shovel/probe. No new snow had fallen though and it felt safe(ish), so I added another notch in my sketch belt and we set out for one lap anyway. We skied the mellowest part of First Turn and it was fine, but I could feel everyone’s disapproving eyes on me. Like we were those sketchy East Coasties with rear-entry boots and no clue everyone jokes about. :)

Well... crap.

And that was that. The snow came hard and fast over the next week which lead to pretty damn epic avalanche danger and, frankly, I haven’t been out in the BC since then. The fact that three people have died skiing in areas where skilled and hardworking Patrollers do their utmost to prevent such fatalaties is keeping my new Dynafits in the closet for now. I rode one awesome pow day at Grand Targhee (p.s. Targhee - your lift tickets are way too expensive) and soon enough I was back in Bozeman at Bridger Bowl, which is keeping me very happy while I frantically do my little Snowpack Stability Dances, waiting and hoping for an improvement.

Here are some links about the Teton/Jackson avalanches:

Some deep frosh on Teton Pass

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