We woke up this morning to rain splattering on the windows. Although we had expected snow, we weren’t discouraged. Jackson is a place where it’s possible to drive up in elevation and ski snow, but I had to admit, this was strange. It is unusually warm for December, not just here, but everywhere. This seems to be a resounding theme across my life. It is raining at 7,000 feet in Wyoming on December 5th. My friends are mountain biking in Colorado; there is no snow in the forecast. There was a wild land fire in November, in Alaska. It is hard to feel Christmas coming when it is so warm, yet it is only 20 days away. Climate change, global warming, whatever you want to call it feels very real right now. Is it even possible to reverse?
Maybe, but for now, let’s go skiing. Eric, Jon, Moiwa and I loaded up in the truck and took off for Teton pass. It was even more crowded then yesterday, skiers and snowboarders hitch hiking all along the sides of the slushy highway in the heavy snow storm. We joined in with them, squinting through the giant snowflakes and sticking out our thumbs. A couple of nice guys in a large van picked us up and took us to the top, where we began our skin. It continued to snow big, fat, heavy wet flakes, and it also felt very warm out. It didn’t take us long to strip down to just our long underwear tops, and even then we were all sweating our way up the hill. Along the trail the heavy snow began to build up on our skins, causing our slide step to stick. We kicked our skis against trees or pounded them on the ground, trying to break off the build up, but it was futile. Luckily the skin wasn’t too long. Eric had led us again to an untracked spot, surprising us with his endless knowledge of these secret stashes in such a popular spot. We were standing over a very steep rollover, above an area known as Avalanche Chute. SInce out motto has always been “live to ski another day” we decided to skip out on that danger and follow a ridge line skiers left. The snow was deep and untracked, which made great turns even if we were just traversing. We found a less consequential run, and each took turns dropping in, carving our own unique s’s into the face of the mountain. As we dropped in elevation, we had to pick our way through more bushes and downed trees, until we reached the run out which would take us back to the car. By the time we got down the bowl, the snow was extremely sticky. It was still snowing, but it was on the verge of sleeting or raining and the temperature was 37 degrees. We each had to point our skis straight into one slicked out track which would allow the wax on our bases to warm enough to be able to keep sliding. If you accidentally skied even a hair out of the track, the snow would grab your edge and try to pull you down. If you skied both skis into it, your legs would come to a sudden dead stop while your upper body continued it’s forward momentum. Stopping was out of the question. So it was like a bobsled race, whipping through turns and trying to ebb speed, all the while gaining speed. The snow kept getting more and more wet, and creeks were beginning to appear, not yet frozen over. At most creek crossings there were snow bridges, but one had broken off and since you couldn’t stop you had to keep your speed to the edge and quickly do a bunny hop over it. It was quite an experience. Next we side stepped up a hill and hit a closed forest service road that was covered in slush. Again, the name of the game was to keep within a track that would give you enough speed to keep on sliding, but steer clear of the deeper, slushy snow that would drag you to a stop. Usually this kind of skiing happens in the spring time, but we enjoyed it, because hey, at least we weren’t mountain biking in December.