tl;dr video at bottom
Last week a very warm storm system rolled in with 80mph gusts and some four feet of snow. It ripped down the power lines to Teton Village and Jackson Hole lost electricity for a week. The epic level of total water content in the precipitation sent the avalanche danger into the stratosphere. Slides 150ft across ripped to the ground and ran into town. Snow King reported a large slide in-bounds in a groomed area. All said, the snowpack was unhappy, the mountains were angry, and everyone gave them their space.
After a week though of no mountain time myself among others were drinking too much coffee in the morning and too much beer in the evening. I went to a cello concert and the Banff Mountain Film Festival both nights. Jackson Hole was scheduled to reopen on Monday morning. I was ready. A bit too ready.
I mean, it seemed scripted. Jackson Hole closes down for a week during February and during that time gets four feet of snow. No one is allowed to ski it until, at last, it reopens.
When I showed up at the Sublette Lift I noticed the Patrol had opened Alta Zero for the first time I'd lived in Jackson. I skied three different lines fast and ecstatic. The last of the three I almost fucked up big time when above a big cliff the texture of the snow transitioned fast from powder to sun crust. I ran over a small tree poking through the horrible snow. These are the moments when growing up on the East pays off, dealing in the moment with horrific snow, trees, rocks, etc. When the dance deteriorates. When your partner's steps change.
At lunch I met up with Adam Swisher and Michelle Leonard who'd I'd been in the Tetons with for 10 days on a NOLS seminar. They'd just skied Four Pines and said it was okay. We ate lunch and Michelle knew everyone. Adam and I had a beer. I don't usually drink when I ski but after the christening of Alta Zero it seemed like a spiritual necessity.
While we were talking I saw a text from Jim Ryan that just said "Hi!". I looked up and he was sitting at the table next to us. "You wanna go ski a tram lap top to bottom?"
Jim, like me on this particular day, likes skiing the gnarliest acceptable terrain on any given day, so when we heard Corbet's was open we both quickly decided that we'd ski it and then Dick's Ditch all the way to the base.
There was a big crowd. Lot of internationals. I looked off the skiers right entrance and it looked okay. I'm affected largely by who I'm skiing with. I take their tendencies. And so when I ski with Jim and the like I feel myself slipping back to young-Jesse. Not that I'm not young, and not that this young-Jesse is any better or worse than how I typically ski these days, but I used to have a lot more fun way-back-when. When the mountain was a playground. When it was just about doing the sickest and funniest thing on skis. I've been trying to remember that.
Anyway, I just jumped into skiers right on Corbet's and my right heel popped out. I slid on my back for a bit, but since my toes were locked into my Dynafits when my body came around I popped my heel in and skied the rest. It was hilarious and fun and the rest of the run we just skied continually hitting every little jump in sight and shredding wonderful groomer turns.
When we got to the bottom I said bye to Jim. He had to go to work. I grabbed my airbag and backcountry stuff and hopped onto the tram. The sun was in a beautiful spot in the sky. At the top I left the first gate, hiked across the bare mountain for a couple hundred feet, and dropped into the most magical zone on the mountain.
It should be said that skiing steep and deep is great, but ripping low-angle trees in good snow is the purest. Or not pure, fucking whatever, its the best. When I dream of skiing I don't dream of scary gnarly lines, of sweating and dreading above cliffs, or of no-fall zones. I dream about knee-deep powder in happily spaced trees. And at the end of the day, after skiing Alta Zero and Corbet's, the scariest lines at Jackson, the best run was absolutely the last.
I dream sometimes of being 75-years-old, waking up late, drinking some Earl Grey tea through whatever medium one will consume news by in 2067, and eventually making my way to some trees, skinning up, and skiing down. The dream.
Some days you've gotta just ski the shit out of the resort.