Seeking Shelter in the Tetons (once again)

Kate and I originally planned to spend the New Year in Cooke City, but with the immense load this last storm delivered, we opted for the more familiar terrain near Jackson. Though they had a similar snowpack situation, I’ve skied there for years and sussed out a number of “safe” zones to go explore when things get touchy. Plus, our family’s famous New Year’s “Good Luck Dinner” made the choice an easy one.

We spent our time skiing the best snow of the season thus far in familiar areas on Teton Pass and in Grand Teton National Park. Spent our first day on the Pass in some sheltered terrain which happens to be the first area I ever skied up there almost ten years ago, and one I frequent with some regularity. It still blows me away how much complaining I hear about the enormous crowds on the Pass. On a bluebird holiday weekend day after 30+” of snow, all these tracks are all ours… Maybe we just lucked out.

The next day, we headed to a spot known as Maverick’s in Grand Teton National Park. Though there are still some well-defined avalanche paths, this has been a go-to spot for me during high danger because of the ample gladed, low angle, benchy terrain. Surprisingly, we wound up breaking trail (now 2 days after the last significant snowfall). This slowed us down and allowed us to consider the incredible instability surrounding us. I’ve toured countless days that have been rated high by various avalanche centers, but I’ve never seen so many bullseye bits of data pointing towards instability as today. Every few hundred yards, we caused giant collapses causing trees to shed their snow. Cracks shot with almost every step. The column in my ECT failed before it was completely isolated. I saw avalanche debris in gullies I’d never seen run in my six years of splitboarding this area. Thankfully, some of the terrain lends itself to good, safe skiing even in these conditions. A very edifying experience in all.

A handful of screen captures from a little edit I made:

My personal favorite. Kate after hearing perhaps the most terrifying collapse of the day. Classic look on her face.

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