After six full years in the valley of Jackson Hole, Mountain Kidd is relocating to the second biggest city in Wyoming. Since very few people know the second biggest city in Wyoming, I’ll just spill the beans; I’m moving to Casper.
Casper, Wyoming has a population of 53,500 according to the 2010 census. This is a significant number for Wyoming. And yes, I’ll still be “Mountain Kidd”. Casper is located at the north end of the Laramie mountain range. In this range is Casper Mountain, rising 3,000 feet above the city to a total of 8130 feet. 8130 is no Grand Teton. but that’s okay- I’ll adapt.
I’ve lived throughout the Rockies for over ten years and each town has pushed me to develop one skill set or another. In Vail, I was young and made bold job choices. Working full-time as a ski instructor Beaver Creek allowed me to become a technical, proficient skier very very quickly. When summer came around, I paid $200 to take a two-week training course as a whitewater rafting guide. At the end of the two weeks, everyone was granted an interview with the promise that about half of us would be hired on for the summer. With a customer service personality and a deep passion for water in all its forms, I got the job and spent the summer swimming rapids on the Eagle River (not on purpose) and guiding tourists down the Shoshone section of the Colorado. I also bought a whitewater kayak and found that I enjoyed the solidarity of kayaking even more than rafting
There was a brief stint swimming flood-stage whitewater on the New River in West Virgina, but it was clear that I needed to find my next mountain town ‘out west’. Vail was fantastic but I knew the fur coat party scene wasn’t for ultimately for me. I told people I wanted another ski town without so many people and more laid back. Those in the know all said “go to Jackson.” And to Jackson I went.
While Jackson has whitewater, it’s not near as plentiful or accessible as it is in Colorado. But we do have epic mountain biking. Armed with a tricked out Kona mountain bike as a college graduation gift, I took to the trails with vengeance and let whitewater fall to the wayside. I dare say the shift in focus fit my aging process as well. When things go ‘wrong’ on whitewater, it’s game on. The situation instantly becomes exponentially more serious and a rapid set of decisions needs to be made to ensure the continuation of life. As a raft guide, you may need to flip the raft, which involves climbing on top of an upside-down raft, attaching a rope to the side and pulling it on top of yourself as you go back into the water. After this, you need to collect your guests. There’s no question that it’s a high pressure situation. But with mountain biking, a wrong decisions leads to a glorious stand-still. Assuming your friend isn’t about to run you over, a crashed mountain biker can luxuriate in lying on the ground and doing a mental once-over before acting.
Of course, the winter months in Jackson are all about the skiing. I went from a good skier in Michigan to a good skier in Colorado (a considerable jump) during my time at Beaver Creek and I consider myself lucky to have had the time to cut my teeth before coming to Jackson. When people call it the best skiing in the lower 48, they’re right- if you can ski it. Jackson is steep and rugged with limited beginner and intermediate terrain. It’s one reason we’ll never get the skier numbers of Vail- which is fine by us locals. On drops where other resorts would issue series of flashing lights and multiple rope lines, Jackson puts a pole with a small orange “cliff” sign. Skiers that wander off the groomed trail, ski at your own risk. It’s fantastic skiing, but a minor knee injury and the cumulative effect of many long, hard winters has me thinking I may be able to live without flinging myself down mountains on two narrow sticks.
Casper does have world-class Nordic skiing. The Casper Nordic Center has 42 kilometers of groomed trails with a 1.2K lighted loop. So I’ll buy some Nordic gear for the winter months. Maybe I’ll help develop the mountain bike trails in the summer, but Casper does have a whitewater park on the downtown section of the Platte river- it’s fun without the consequences of class V rivers. And Jackson is an easy five-hour drive away. Maybe a mountain lifestyle has more to do with the person than the geographical location.
Nonprofit of the Day: Teton Valley Hapi Trails