Jackson Hole, WY: The reward for a very fraught driving day

Well, I am doing my best to roll with the weather punches. Feeling pretty sloth-like and fat from no skiing. I knew today was not going to be the best day at Snowbird, UT, but I still got up early, drank my coffee while I looked at the weather/mountain reports. Reports were for rain at the base, snow higher up, and wind gusts of 50 mph. Hrm, not ideal. But I still decided to pack up and make my way up the road towards Little Cottonwood Canyon. Precipitation was coming down as rain but the air temperature was reading 24 degF. Uh oh. Before I even began climbing, at a very large 4+ lane intersection and with plenty of time and distance to brake for the red light, I found myself unable to stop because of how bad the black ice was on the road. It was fortunate that it was still early and there were not many cars on the road. I decided to pull into a nearby parking lot and reassess. Now, there were reports of continued warm temperatures, rain/ice/black ice on the road, and 70 mph gusts on the mountain. Even if a foot of snow was projected to fall on the mountain, I thought, getting into a terrible car accident on the way to Snowbird to be lifted off the ground by 70 mph gusts sounds like a terrible reason to die/get hurt/total my car. I took a deep breath and made the call to call it quits on Salt Lake City for now.

Because the system was so warm, it was wreaking havoc on the roads. All of us were driving no more than 35 mph, with many car lengths between us, on the usual 70 mph I-15 interstate that runs north-south out of Salt Lake City, in the part that was still within the city and therefore very well maintained. And, still, two cars spun out right in front of me. The first car did a slow spin out to the right and I thought it is good the car is spinning out of the way of traffic. Then the car between it and me decided to step on their brakes….NOOOOO!!! That car also spun out to the right, and a car accident involving me was narrowly averted.

I elected to drive the longer driving route from Salt Lake to Wilson, WY to try and stay on the large interstate for as much as possible. It was still very slow and stressful going, and what should have been a 5 hour drive took close to 7 hours (there was a nice cold, dryer spell through Idaho). Teton Pass was open, but the drive was also very slippery so great caution was taken. It was awesome to see so many skiers parked though for a day of touring/laps! I really miss living in a place where that is just the thing you do with friends!

Today's almost-7 hour drive

Today’s almost-7 hour drive

I made it to Wilson, WY without incident and have decided to park myself here for the next while because:

  1. Snow conditions are great
  2. I love the Tetons
  3. I am very tired of driving around and just want to stay put in a place, ski, snowshoe, and recharge
  4. I got an excellent deal at the Bentwood Inn, only 12 minutes away from Teton Village – yes, this trip has been one of contrasts. To be some times sleeping in my car to staying at one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World. As an aside, I was chatting with the male part of the innkeepers, and it was pretty great to learn of overlap. It turns out that he and his wife lived in North Conway, NH for a long time and are going to be returning there after a few years here (he’s an attorney and she is a teacher). He offered to do a caravan for the drive back East, although I do not think it will work out since I am probably under greater time pressure than he is and they are probably going to drive a more southerly (warmer) route.

Right now I am thinking I will ski at Jackson Hole and also Grand Targhee, a small resort renowned for how much powder it gets (along the lines of Revelstoke and the other inner British Columbia resorts). This is just more kind of scene…small resorts with steep, amazing terrain, lots of locals, and fewer tourists (like me). It helps that I am here mid-week and not having to fight the crowds.

Due to some late emails, I only found out that I received an invitation to ski with the US Paralympic ski team this week after I left town. The team practices Monday to Friday, so I am tempted to drive back to the Salt Lake area and ski with them on Friday, perhaps “avenge” my no-skiing-time in SLC over the weekend, then decide whether to head back up here or to Colorado, depending on snow conditions. Another option is to try and connect with them next week. Colorado seems to doing worse conditions-wise, which makes Jackson Hole all the more appealing. However, this would mean missing seeing friends in the Telluride area, especially.

The warm storm following the very very cold spell screams avalanche danger, so I will be continuing to stay in-bounds. It’s a bit unfortunate I have not been able to use any of my touring stuff, but the terrain is so amazing at these places, I am sure I will not feel sad. A gentle snowshoe in the quiet of the snow sounds perfectly satisfying too.

view-from-bentwood-inn-room_1

Looking out of the window right by my bed

As I was driving, I remembered so many strangers’ comments to me as I’ve been skiing, telling me how incredible I was, what a great attitude I had to life (my response to that one was, “you make do” :)), what an inspiration I was etc. It would be incredibly ungrateful and unkind of me to dismiss these sincere and wonderful comments from people. I hope I can continue to do others and myself proud.

view-from-bentwood-inn-room_2

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