It has been a whirlwind of a winter. Mother Nature has been the ultimate Libra this year, flip flopping between Spring, Winter, and something new altogether. Out West, all that craziness has led to one of the most epic skiing seasons of all time. Jackson Hole Resort actually shut down because they got TOO MUCH SNOW (among power lines being out and other important issues). Jackson Hole, of all places. One of the most capable and advanced ski resorts in the country. Very much back up and running after that unusual and intense storm of February, it’s now received a whopping 548 inches of magical powder and it is time to enjoy that beautiful short lived season of Spring Skiing—a precious time where sunshine reigns, the snow has yet to turn to mashed potatoes, and bombing the slopes in your bikini top or board shorts is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.
For our adventure this year we decided to skip the resort and head out for a real Grand Teton adventure in the backcountry. No lines except the fresh tracks we made in the snow…
STAY AT FIRESIDE RESORT
For a place to prep for your alpine start, and then to crash when your muscles have given up and your brain has just about exploded after spending an evening on a snow ledge, and in general you are just so damn grateful to still be alive, stay at Fireside Resort. We keep coming back to these guys—there are plenty of lodging options in Jackson Hole, but something about Fireside is just special. It’s got this luxury tiny home community concept, and is oh so close to the slopes (and our go-to favorite, the Q Roadhouse).
When we first visited we kept relying on this ‘glamping’ term to describe the experience—but having come and gone we realize it’s so much more than that. Fireside provides really beautiful little cabins, outfitted with everything you need to enjoy the nature surrounding you—i.e. private outdoor firepit and essential communal hot tub—while giving you the accessibility you need before and after hitting the backcountry hard. It’s the best of both worlds.
SKI TO SURPRISE LAKE AND STAY THE NIGHT
Backcountry skiing is another sport entirely and skiing nearly five miles uphill definitely brings new meaning to the phrase “earn your turns”.
We packed up our alpine touring skis, slapped on those skins and headed out for a ridiculously good time. The ski up to Surprise Lake is just stunning – definitely not for the faint of heart. Our evening accommodations were not as luxurious as Fireside, but still shoveling out a ledge in the side is one of the coziest night’s sleep you’ll ever have. It’s impossible not to feel the beauty of nature in every chilly breath when you up in the Teton Amphitheater, the Grand Teton and Teewinot rising more than 4,000 feet above you. If the adrenaline wears off and a mini panic attack sets in while sleeping in that tiny little shoveled out ledge, just open your heart to the sky and trust in your skis and the snow. It works every time. Alternately, get in before dark and don’t sleep on a ledge at all! There’s plenty of room beside the lake itself, but we camped out on a snow ledge above it for some of the most epic views in the Rockies.
SKI DOWN FROM SURPRISE LAKE. Dropping nearly 3,000 vertical feet over almost five miles. Helpful beta: If you go it alone for the first time you want to stay to the skiers right. We didn’t and had a bit of an epic bushwhacking adventure crossing over a ridge until we got to more of that amazing fresh pow that fell overnight.
NEXT, WE HIT UP 25 SHORT. In a different area for a different day, we fell in love here. It’s easy to access but involves some technical elements and careful route-finding. We dropped in off the top of the ridge in deep powder snow, enjoying fast, deep turns down to the narrow entry of the line. From the top it was perfect powder all the way down to the wide apron at the bottom.
There is always risk in these mountains forays, but with good planning, good people, and a flask full of really great whiskey, it’s almost impossible not to have a memorable adventure. Meeting challenges, accomplishing goals, and pursuing dreams fuels our lives, but in every check next to a completed objective, the best memories come from being with the right people, for the right reasons, and appreciating being outdoors together. Ultimately, it boils down to what Alex Lowe, the legendary climber and ski-mountaineer, once said…“Whoever has the most fun wins.”
EAT AT THE WILD SAGE
For a respite back into society and after you’ve truly ‘earned’ it after that intense evening at Surprise Lake, book a table for two at the Wild Sage. With a creative menu incorporating local flavors and ingredients, it’s a wonderful meal in one of the world’s most memorable places. The intimate 32-seat gathering room has a full view of our exhibition-style kitchen. Regional offerings feature organically grown produce, local game and meats, sustainable fish and seafood, and freshly prepared desserts.
It’s a local favorite with an impressive wine list and dishes like pheasant fricassee and espresso-dusted elk short loin. It’s the sort of place that imprints memories on your palate, that will have you sipping a glass of exceptionally good Cab Franc in six months and wistfully dreaming of that ‘Country-Fried Organic Quail Breast and Thigh’ with polenta-grit cake, dehydrated applewood-smoked bacon and jalapeno relish…
FLY BACK TO REALITY
Bid adieu to these grandiose mountains, the bruises on your knees, blood on your hand and cramp in your calf the only remainders of an insane adventure one fine Brigadoon-esque Spring evening. Was it even real? You’ll be back in a suit the next day and wondering if it even happened. Relish the memories and repeat next year, when the powder comes calling once more…remember, whoever has the most fun wins.