Last night we drove over Teton Pass to stay with our friends, Eric and Martha, in Jackson. I have to admit, this town has always exhilarated and intimidated me. It has been so hyped up to me through ski movies and ski magazines, and I was very excited to experience it for myself. As we left Victor we noticed all the headlights coming our way on the snowy pass, which made it appear that a lot of the locals live in Idaho, but travel to Jackson to work. As we reached the summit, I gazed at the valley below in the dark, noticing how many more city lights there were on the east side of the pass. It made it feel as if we were leaving the sleepy, quiet countryside and entering the crowded little party town. Lucky for us our friends aren’t part of the party scene; they just want to ski, like us.
We got up this morning, drank some coffee and took our time getting ready for a ski up on the pass. While we sat around the fire, it began to lightly snow outside, a sign that another winter storm was heading our way. Unfortunately, Martha had to go to work, but Eric was free and offered to be our tour guide for another day. He had made a plan to ski the north side of the pass, a place he usually poked around and hadn’t seen many other people in , even though everyday on Teton Pass is a busy one. To access this area, we had to brave a very popular, 1700 vertical foot boot pack, which intimidated the life out of me. Jon has a long stride, and Eric is a freak of nature and is always a fast hiker, so I knew it would be a challenge just to keep them in eye sight. On top of that, I didn’t want to be holding up a line of Jackson locals, all staring at the slow blonde girl hiking in alpine boots, barely making it up to the summit. I knew this was going to be a challenge, but I decided to embrace it and made the goal to just keep putting one heavy boot in front of the other. We began the long hike upwards and it started off well. We had all strapped our skis to our packs, which left my poles free for me to use to help push myself upwards. It made me reminicse about backpacking in the summertime, but usually I am not alone; I’m with girls, and we talk and talk and try not to think about what we are doing or why. When that faded, I thought about our experience here and everything we had learned about this area. Eric and Martha both work for the forest service, so they live in government housing up on a hill outside of Jackson. It is beautiful and nice, but only affordable because they work for the forest service. They love this place because of the proximity to the mountains and the endless ability to play here, which I guess is why it is so popular to begin with. But they also have trouble with the overpriced restaurants, the lack of a sense of community here and the challenge at buying a home here. On the other hand, our friends in Driggs rent a nice, albeit 3-season house, for less then Jon and I rent out a barn in Durango. They had almost bought a house last year for $55,000. They have a family and have friends who have families, and they all help each other out, which makes it feel as if there is a lot of community there. But there are also a lot of empty houses, and foreclosures, and not a lot of money or jobs in the area. There is a small, unfinished bike path, with no hope for completion in the future. Then just over a 24 mile mountain pass there are houses for 1.2 million, and that’s the middle ground of the market. There is not just a bike path, but tons of mountain bike trails and hiking trails. It’s incredible how close the proximity of these people are, but how different the worlds they live in seem, yet share by their passion for the mountains.
When I finally came out of my deep thought process, I had reached the summit! I was excited to be done with the hike, and elated that it had gone by so quickly. We were on top Glory Mountain, so the wind was whipping around and we had to duck behind a small group of trees to get ready to ski. We left the growing crowd at the top, and traversed into the fog, trusting Eric to show us the way. We traversed and traversed, until he stopped and pointed to an alpine bowl of untouched snow beneath us. It was our reward for our climb to the top and it didn’t let us down. We each took a turning skiing it, and then dropped into the trees, where the snow was even deeper and less wind effected. As we got lower and lower in elevation, the snow coverage got thinner and thinner, until we met up with a snowmobile track that took us back to Eric’s truck. It had been such a good run, we decided to go back to the top and do another lap on the south side of the pass. Even though we were tired and moved slower, none of us had anything to do all day but ski. So that’s what we did.
After sharing another day on the pass with locals, and coming back into Jackson for another evening, I began to realize Jackson is just another mountain town. There is an eclectic group of people here, not everyone is a “pro”, and everyone here is just enjoying their time near the mountains.