Our adventure this year takes our fearless heroes to Cowboy Country in Jackson Hole Wyoming. A little summary and preview precedes the daily highlights. The town of Jackson is about half an hourís bus ride from Teton Village, which is at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain. Snow King Mountain is in Jackson, but it is a very small mountain. Youíll have to decide if youíd rather stay in a town with lots of good restaurants and shopping with a quaint small "Western" feel and take a half hour bus ride to ski, or stay right at the mountain and take a half hour bus ride if you want to go out at night.
Saturday, February 23: We arrive at Jackson Hole airport around 1:30pm. If we thought the Bozeman airport in Montana was small, we now have a new classification for small. This airport is smaller than my local recreational aircraft airfield. The airport doesnít even have a hangar as we had to deplane on the tarmac as they rolled up a mobile staircase to the airplane door. Itís a wonder a jet aircraft can land here. Upon entering the building to receive our luggage, I noticed that even though this is a very small airport, it was peculiar that it took over half an hour to get our luggage. Itís not like they had other planes landing and may have gotten confused as to which luggage to load onto the single conveyor belt. And as we all know, kind of like Murphyís Law, it seemed like none of the luggage coming out was being picked up by anyone waiting, and no one waiting for their luggage was finding anything that was theirs, even though the conveyor belt was loaded with items. Be prepared for a frustrating experience at the airport and wait until the end of this story for the even more frustrating part about leaving.
The bright point of the airport was that unlike other larger airports, the Admiral Club was free for everyone, so I picked up an alcoholic orange juice, which turned out to be orange juice and champagne. Oh, did I fail to mention that the Admiral Club was not a separate private room, but what amounts to a lemonade stand in the middle of the room right where you wait for your luggage?
We head to town. Let it be known that I miscalculated or was under the impression that Teton Village, which was at the base of the mountain, was also full of restaurants, shopping, etc. Jackson is the town that has all of the after ski activities and Teton Village is right at the mountain. For those interested in skiing at Jackson Hole, youíll have the weigh the benefits of either staying in the town of Jackson and taking a half hour bus ride to Teton Village to ski, or stay in Teton Village and take the half hour bus ride for entertainment.
We arrive at out hotel, which it truly a hotel as opposed to the typical lodge or quaint innís that we may have stayed at in the past. It is the Best Western - The Inn at Jackson Hole. Itís like a motel more than a hotel as all the rooms are accessed from the outside, which makes any exploring we like to do, to require a jacket (and gloves and hat!). Out TV isnít working and we let the front desk know. We decide to go into town this evening as there is nothing to do in Teton Village and we may be too tired to make it into town on days we ski. The bus is a bargain at a very affordable $2. While on the bus I was almost killed by a guillotine in the form of a snowboarder losing hold of his board and it slicing through the air right down onto me. I stuck out my hand just in time and was congratulated on my quick reflexes for stopping the "weapon" just before it cut off my leg.
Jackson is cute little town with lots of restaurants and some western shopping. Western as in no chain stores, only "touristy" establishments. We also notice a lot of people in cowboy hats, but hell, this is the cowboy state. We eat at the Old Yellowstone Garage, a highly recommended Italian joint with very expensive wines from all over Italy. I should have ordered a better meal, but how was I to know. The food was really good, or at least the appetizer and the bread. Just take your time when ordering so you make the right choice.
We walked around town a little and headed over to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, but didnít have time to go in as our bus was arriving any minute to take us back to our hotel. We arrive back at our motel and the TV is fixed, but the cable box is gone. I guess this was the only way they can fix the problem. Our heat is also not working. Maybe the cable box also controlled the heat? I had to sleep in my fleece sweatshirt with the hood engaged this night, as it was very cold. Sleep arrives.
Sunday, February 24: We awake to light snow and head for breakfast, donning our coats. We first stop by the front desk to change our room as our body temperatures are now below the legal limit. The hotel has a breakfast buffet of all you can eat for $12. What!? Only the uninformed or the totally stupid would do something like this. For all you readers out there, donít you dare fall for this scam. Breakfast should cost no more than $5. I donít care if it is all you can eat. Who eats like a pig when you ski anyway? We find that breakfast downstairs at the Mangy Moose saloon is more what we would expect; eggs, hash browns and toast for about 4 dollars.
Skiing commences. We decide to take the gondola rather than the tram, which would take us to the top. There is a rather large line, plus with the snow, we donít need to go to the top where the visibility would be limited. The tram only takes you up a little further than the Sublette lift anyway. The temperature is right around 32 degrees, in combination with precipitation is not good! If it snows, we want powder, not the wet stuff, which would freeze once the temperature drops. We can get this on the East Coast. Wind gusts are reaching 40-60 Mph and visibility is poor at times. This is NOT a mountain that you want to have poor visibility on as you can find yourself in a Wile E. Coyote scenario of skiing into a cloud, looking down and realizing there is nothing below your feet, as you plunge hundreds of feet only to crash into a puff of smoke.
The sun makes an appearance, if only for a few seconds, but makes a hell of a difference in visibility. We make some bad choices in trails, as usual. In our effort to explore, we end up in some areas where the only way down is via a large mogul infested trail. It really does take a lot out of you to make it down this way. We purchased some very appropriate squeegees in the ski shop, which you put around a gloved finger to wipe off your goggles in wet snow conditions. Well, after a couple of tumbles down the mogul trail, we noticed that we both lost our squeegees. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Although I took one or two little minor falls, Trok took a very impressive tumble at one point down. It was quite amusing.
Skiing ends this day for us at 3:00, with a feeling of disappointment in the conditions. However, it was snowing all day, so we may have a great day tomorrow. Thatís why we take a full week for these trips. We head down to the hot tub to relax our muscles. We wrap ourselves up in the motel robes, but donít put anything on our feet and the cement feels like we are walking on the inverse of burning coals. We have dinner at the Mangy Moose tonight. Donít miss the free salad bar there, which can easily cost over $10 elsewhere. This ainít your typical house salad bar. Itís packed with goodies. I get a burger, and we all know meat in the part of the country is just scrumptious. Yummy! Snow continues to fall as we go to sleep at 9:30.
Monday, February 25: We wake to cloudless blue skies. Since it snowed all night It only "looks" delicious as we turn on the TV to find out that the temperature is 17 degrees below zero. Thatís on the Fahrenheit scale! After our usual breakfast at the Rocky Mountain Oyster joint in the Mangy Moose, we head on out. Indeed, there is powder today. The temperature report at the lift states 17 degrees below 0 at the top and 9 degrees above 0 at the bottom, 26 degrees difference! There was about 10 inches of fresh snow since yesterday, and this made for some good powder skiing off-trail. There is one bowl off of the Sublette lift, that requires one traversal past the bottom of Corbetís Coulier (which we didnít realize until the next day that it was Corbetís), and then another small traverse to get to, in which we had a blast doing. We stayed in this area half of the day, with me taking quite a few face plants in the powder on this steep bowl.
The blue skies this day turned quickly to clouds to the point where we were skiing in fog and then just as quickly, it cleared up again. I had heard that the weather patterns in Jackson Hole change rapidly and are cannot be predicted. Nothing out of the ordinary happens for the rest of the skiing day. It days turns out to be our best pure skiing experience of the trip. We make it until 3:40 before our bodies complaining to our brains.
I do the hot tub alone today and observe some derelict British "thugs" talking about their day of skiing. It was hard not to laugh listening to their obvious exaggerated tales on the slopes. A bald guy said how he tumbled down the mountain and that each time he hit, it was 20-25 feet from the last impact. He said how his friend went out of control, over a burm, and land upside-down in a tree hanging from his snowboard. Oh, that explains it; a snowboarder. No wonder they were telling tall tales of misinformation.
Tonight we have an expensive but totally satisfying dinner at the Snake River Lodge at Gamefish. I had the pasta with venison, which may very well have been the best meal I have ever had in my life. This is surely the best meal one can find in Teton Village. The only bad part was that the room was fricking freezing that I had to wear my jacket at dinner. The couple next to us who had their baby, asked to be moved to a different room and were accommodated. Once again, sleep falls upon us by no later than 10:00.
Tuesday, February 26: We awake to another cloudless blue-sky day. We turn on the TV to check the weather. As unbelievable as it is, it is actually colder today. There is a wind and the wind chill factor is 38 degrees below zero. Time to pull out all of the stops when it comes to bundling up for the weather. In addition to the thermal shirt and turtleneck, I add a thick winter sweater to my repertoire. I also place those little foot warmers into my boots and hand warmers into my gloves.
When we get to the gondola, the weather report shows temperature inversion is in place today as it is 2 degrees and the top of the mountain and 7 below at the base. Today is one of those days that skiers like us DONíT LIKE! It is just plain uncomfortable at times, especially on the chair lifts. We decide to ski on the right-most part of the mountain for the morning but give that up quickly because itís boring and unchallenging. Ok, it sucks. We had back to our usual Thunder Lift and Sublette Lift area. When I ask some other people on the chair lift how we can see people down from Corbetís Coulier, he informs us that it just past the first traversal from Sublette. A-ha! We wait patiently, but I didnít see anyone come down. The guy on the chair lift said that very few people have ever even done it. We also meet an older couple who tells us that they ski an average of 100 times per year. They drive from mountain to mountain during the winter months, stopping for a few days at a time to ski at each of them. Then in the summer, they take vacation. What a life! I guess that is what a ski bum turns into when they grow up. Next year they plan on going to Antarctica. I guess theyíll cross-country ski while they are there.
Trok is not having a good time at all as he is lacking the carbon-activated warmers. He wants to stop for lunch before noon. I suggest he buy some hand warmers and he does and after lunch he is like a new man. I figured weíd end early today due to the cold, but we made it until 3pm as it warmed up to zero degrees, we think. On our last run before heading back in, I witness someone fall and lost his skies, but the trail was steep enough that he was body surfing on his back for a few hundred feet until finally coming to a stop. It was quite amusing. This is also the time when I make one of my most spectacular moves on skies that I have ever done. I take a fall and slide down the mountain head-first. I am able to twist my body so that I am now feet-first and pop back up onto my skies and continue on as if nothing happened. I was quite impressed with myself.
I do the hot tub alone again today and almost slip on the ice on the stairs. This is an accident waiting to happen. The moisture from the steam of the hot tub lands on the stairs and with the temps at about zero degrees, ice is an inevitable consequence. Luckily, I have good balance. Tonight we have dinner at the sushi place in our hotel and have warm saki. Schwing! Then we head to the Mangy Moose for dessert, where I have a sub-par piece of Key Lime Pie.
Wednesday, February 27: The temperature has returned to normal. It is in the teens today. The weather however is constantly changing from fog to clear and back; an acceptable trade-off from the extreme cold. Since this is our 4th day in a row (unprecedented, except in the case of avalanches), and this is Trokís last day to ski, we decide to take the tram up to the top. This will cut into some of our time on the slopes as the tram lines can be quite long. As luck would have it, there is no line when we use it. The 2.2 mile long tram to the top travel at 23 Mph for anyone who cares to know. The amount of time it takes to reach the top can be determined by a simple math problem that I leave to the reader.
It is very windy at the top of the mountain and once again we are in the "Siberia analogy." Cold, windy, blowing snow, etc. You just want to get the hell down the mountain. We try to find Corbetís Coulier so we can witness this frightening location from the top. Without a guide and trying to follow it from the trailmap makes the one try fruitless. There are a few ways down from up here, all of them either black diamond or double black diamond. The trail we choose says, "easier way down." Trok points out that normally we see signs that say "easy way down." I get his point. Just the addition of the two letters "er" make you want to chuckle in that they are admitting there is no easy way down, but that is you so choose to go down, the lesser of multiple evils is the way we chose. It turns out this way was not difficult at all. I guess I got some energy boost or the fear has left my body momentarily. I just want to get away from the windy conditions, so I throw caution to the wind (lots of wind) and go down the mogul infested trail looking rather smooth doing so as Trok pointed out.
We end up on the same trails that can be gotten to via Sublette, so it is true, itís not worth it to take the tram (if there is any line whatsoever), unless you want to go to Corbetís. The rest of the day we spend at Thunder and Sublette lifts, as these are by far the best trails on the mountain. We ski until 3:30 today
Tonight we go into Jackson once again, so that we can say that we actually went to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Everyone tells us that it is the best place in town if you want a steak. We go to the T-shirt store once again, because it is almost mandatory that we get silly ski t-shirts when we go skiing. Well, we broke that tradition this time. I couldnít find any that stood out from the rest, so I skipped buying any. We get to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, but the restaurant part isnít open yet, and by looking at the prices, we decide that food from the bar area will suffice. I get a buffalo burger and fries, a cheap meal, but tasty nevertheless.
Thursday, February 28: Today we finally get a respite from skiing and Trok heads back home. It is snowing, which may be good for tomorrow. Oddly enough, after Trok leaves I was watching TV and some movie about an avalanche at a ski resort was on TBS. Also on TV, watching "Worldís worst drivers & stupidest criminals," one of the segments was a car pulled over in Teton County. I didnít recognize it. Next came Scooby Doo. Mr. Greenway and Leach did it. I ate at the Mangy Moose tonight, once again having the amazing burger and salad bar.
Friday, March 1: According to the reports, we received six inches of snow yesterday, so although I wouldnít call it a powder day, some fresh snow is a good thing. It is sunny today, and the temperature has climbed to zero degrees. The wind chill today is 20 below zero. Oh joy!
Since I am on my own today, I have full control over where I go, speed, breaks, food, etc. I decide to go to the bottom of Corbetís to see if I can catch anyone coming down. I finally get my wish. I saw someone come down, from the start. I am sure it wasnít the skiers plan to come tumbling down in a summersault without his skies. When he finally came to a stop, his skies were about 40 feet behind him up on the steep sloe of Corbetís, and it isnít easy climbing at a 45-degree angle when you are at 10,000 feet.
And now for the big challenge. I wish to go to Corbetís myself. After lunch, I go to the tram, which had no line as I was eating. Just as I finished lunch however, all of these people came out of nowhere and now there were over 200 people on the line. I was pissed! It was fricking cold, the line is in the shade, and it was about a 40 minute wait until I finally got on the tram, but I was determined to see Corbetís from the top. It is VERY cold on the top today with the wind. I have to take a little break in Corbetís Cabin for warm up before venturing out.
I make it to Corbetís. Let me tell you, this is scary. I want to use some curse words here, but even those canít convey what was felt up there. I call Trok on my cellphone from the top to tell him I made it to Corbetís. He says, "Oh, youíre going to try and find it today?" I say, "No, I am here right now!" I think this surprised him. Let me tell you, I was scared even to take pictures. I approached the edge but was scared that a gust of wind would come and knock me into the gorge, so I took off my skies and approached on my hands and knees, to keep a low center of gravity. Another guy showed up and I wanted to look nonchalant, so I was looking like I was going to attempt to ski down, and he asked me if I was going to do it. I lied, "Iím thinking about it." So I asked him if he was going to do it. I would love to have seen someone do it from the top. He was trying to find a spot that looked like the best approach to get in. I think he was thinking exactly the same as me; "if I look like I want to do it, this guy will think I am cool." I canít wait anymore and head on down. He was probably relieved.
My ski day ends and I head to the hot tub with a couple of Mikeís hard lemonades. Itís snowing again. I meet some people from Pittsburgh and England in the hot tub today and we talk about our skiing adventures for the week. I take a shower and head over the Mangy Moose for Happy Hour. Nothing special. I have a bite to eat and a stout then head back to the room.
Saturday, March 2: Awake to 15 degrees below zero. What is it with this weather?! I have a reservation on the 11:30 bus to take me to the airport. This is really a waste. Since I am leaving, Iíd rather fly out at 9:00 or so. Here are a few hours of dead time. And who the heck wants to spend 2+ hours at Jackson airport?
Watching the weather channel before I leave shows Chicago delays due to lots of snow and cold. Iím lucky I am flying through Dallas on the way back. Uh-oh, spoke too soon, next they announce Dallas delays due to ice. I call the airline and am told there will be a one hour delay leaving Dallas back to NY. I arrive at Jackson airport (ugh!) and am told there is a one hour delay leaving here too. Oh great, an extra hour in this pitstop. Luckily, no lines at the airport. I could have arrived here 10 minutes before my flight. I check in and then BAM! Where did these people come from? I guess some more buses had just arrived. There are now over 200 people on line. Wow, what luck I arrived when I did.
This is the part I warned you about at the beginning of the story. I check out the airport cafeteria, which makes my health-code-violation work cafeteria look appetizing. I get a grilled cheese and pretzel. I am just sitting around reading my book, when 1 hour before my flight I decide to get on line for the security check so that I can at least sit in the waiting area. The line is huge! There is a flight going to Chicago and one to Seattle, in addition to ours. One metal detector, a couple of hundred people, and a boring airport make for the worst experience in an airport that you would ever want. The plane wasnít going to leave with all itís passengers still waiting to go through security, but I was on line for over one hour, and I was first on line for our flight as no one was as anal as myself about getting done with having to wait on the security line.
Finally, weíre off and on our way to Dallas. The pilot offers to show anyone the cockpit after the flight, but I figured that wouldnít be a good idea. After all, anyone who asks to see the cockpit these days should raise suspicion. I arrive in Dallas and it turns out there is an earlier flight back to NY, so I ask to get on that flight. There is one seat left. However, if a passenger volunteers for a different flight as opposed to the airline changing your flight, you donít get your luggage delivered for free to your home, so I opt to stick with the original plan. Story end.
Next year we go to Vail. Vail is King! Anyone want to join us and be a part of these stories? Go to my home page and email me.