I wrapped up a very prolific climbing week in Colorado with friends Curt, Andrew, Jeremy, and Fred on Saturday 12/15. On the final day, Curt and I hit up the Animal World crag at Boulder Canyon in some of the coldest temps I’ve climbed in all year. The temperatures were a challenge, but we got in a lot of climbing and had a great last day, including my first 5.12 flash in Colorado, a route called Days of Future Past. My favorite route of the five we climbed that day was an 11c called Animal Magnetism.
So after climbing all day, Curt went to work the evening shift at his restaurant and I hit the west bound road. I’m on my way to Lopez Island in Washington State for the winter solstice gathering. I had been hoping to ski in Colorado while I was there, but the resorts didn’t have enough snow to justify the high ticket prices. I saw that Jackson Hole had some snow in the forecast, and sitting 9 hours west of Boulder it seemed like a logical choice for the next day.
I arrived at Jackson later than expected, but still in time for a Sunday ski session. The wintery driving the night before suggested a good ski day ahead. The mountain had a 65” base with 7” of fresh overnight. It was cold, so the snow was light and fluffy. The constant wind piled drifts on the leeward slopes, and I found stashes of untracked powder ranging from boot-deep to knee-deep. I learned of a new expression for days like this, “free refills”. The snow kept piling on and the wind kept filling the tracks in leaving a fresh line for every run. It was the perfect first day of skiing. I explored the entire mountain nonstop, only stopping to ride the chairlifts. The new high speed chair Casper had some memorable lines. I found a section of trees completely untracked, and the fast chair let me do 6 minute laps. I cleaned out every fresh line through those trees in about 8 laps.
Jackson Hole has a few claims to fame. It is considered the most difficult ski resort in North America. It is also home to the largest vertical drop serviced by any lift in North America – the aerial tram, which rises 4,139 vertical feet above the base area. Although I was disappointed that the famous Corbett’s Couloir and other difficult descents were closed due to low snow levels, I was stoked to ski so much vertical. I skied the tram from top to bottom nonstop, and timed my runs to catch the last tram ride of the day at 3:30. When I arrived back at the base area, I was surprised to also catch the last gondola ride back up at 4:00. This was a full value day.