Today I received my very own, unrestricted ski pass to (trumpet fanfare) “The White Strip of Death” at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. “The White Strip of Death” is not unique to Jackson, but a technical skiing term to describe man’s attempt to open a ski resort on a predetermined date come hell or high water. In our schedule loving society, this is accomplished with numerous artificial snow machines directed along one trail. Skiers, jonsesing after nearly four months of snowlessness, flock to this solitary rock-flecked trail in droves. This is where the death part comes in.
The never-ever skiers. The “honey, I’ll teach you to ski” couples. The nine-year-old straight-liners. The full-face helmet “I’m here to huck” shredders. All of these personalities converge and attempt to share one trail. Some of us refer to this as “the human slalom”, but that’s a desperate attempt to make lite of a sad situation. The situation being, of course, snowlessness. With a 24″ base and 0″ new in the last 144 hours, we optimistically report the mountain as “open” (as of yesterday) and skiing conditions are “packed powder”. Of course, those paying $2,000 for a pass (and those working for it) would appreciate some “real powder”.
So did I pony up $’s for the privilege of a chair carting my happy self up the hill? Nope. For my pass, I’ll be skiing with those wonderful 7-14 year-olds during peak times. If you’re planning a ski vacation, make note. Peak times at a ski resort (any U.S. ski resort) are between Christmas and New Year’s, President’s weekend (February 13-15) and Spring Break (otherwise known as “March”). The rest of the season, us locals get the mountain to ourselves. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just the way we want it.
Bookmark of the Day: Bridger-Teton Backcountry Avalanche Hazard & Weather Forecast
As previously discussed in “The Sicky Sick Gnar Gnar Vocab of J-Hole”, most anything specialized come with its own unique vocabulary terms, and skiing is no exception. We skiers often employ the term “making turns” to denote that we are skiing, because turns is really what the sport is about. As many a nine-year-old in Michigan can attest, going straight on skis isn’t hugely difficult. Although there is some amount of strength and balance involved, straight lining an entire run is typically a fair helping of stupidity coupled with disillusions of invisibility. Straight lining anything in the Rockies is ill-advised as one usually ends up careening off a mountain rather than hitting a car in the parking lot (my sister was just the nine-year-old who would forgo turns in favor of stopping via impact with cars/buildings/adults). So in my desperation to do something, ANYTHING in the off-season I decided to make some turns. Two, to be exact.
The ‘off-season’ in Jackson (fall and spring) forces residents to become increasingly creative with their outdoor endeavors and I attribute the first day of my 09-10 ski season directly to this fact. The snow line was high enough to make Teton Pass, at 8,431 feet, marginally acceptable. We parked the car at the top with another dozen wishful thinkers and started skinning south. For those of you who don’t backcountry ski (and I wouldn’t recommend it without avalanche safety classes and a good group of backcountry friends), “skinning” involves attaching synthetic skins to backcountry skis to make purchase when going uphill. Along the ascent, we passed bowl after beautiful bowl. Like a siren call, these sections tempted me with their illusions of white, fluffy coverage, but a thorough love of my intact knees and face told me to wait until those logs were buried under a solid snow pack. But not everyone up there thought the same.
Another couple had veered off the skin track and were waiting, contemplating a partial downhill descent. Wishing them luck, we wondered if we weren’t being overly cautious but quickly dismissed it as wisdom and experience. On the way back, however, we stopped and chatted with them skinning back for lap two. “There’s a good 10 inches of faceted snow off the ground and a nice light fluffy layer off of that. It’s pretty good!” was the report. It was enough to make me seriously consider following them, but I wondered how much sheer luck was involved with their line. So feeling wiser than lucky, we removed our skins and glided back towards the car. I only made two turns in the skin track on the way back, but man did they feel good.
Pro Deal of the Day: up to 60% off Horny Toad. If you want the details, send me an email by filling out form here and I’ll email you the goods.
It has come to my attention over the years that mountain towns have a language all their own. Nowhere is this more true than in my beloved town, Jackson.
First allow me to clarify one important point. I live in the town of Jackson, Wyoming which is located in the valley of Jackson Hole. ‘Hole’ is an old name for valley. Jackson Hole is also the name of the ski resort (full name: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort). But please stop asking me if Jackson, Wyoming is near Jackson Hole. Just remember: locals live in Jackson, and tourists visit Jackson Hole. Some of the new kids call it “J-Hole”. They need to re-read the above paragraph or I need to get with the times. One of the two.
So in J-Hole, the bro-bras are known for dropping some pretty sick shit. Sometimes they’re just spraying, but we really do rip wicked lines with top to bottom face shots because our gnar gnar mountain IS the shit. If this doesn’t make any sense to you, see below.
Urban dictionary defines gnar gnar as: Shortened modernized version of gnarly typically used by stoners. e.g. “Dude that shit is gnar gnar.” Since Jackson doesn’t really differentiate our general population from the “stoners” (they are one in the same), I’ll go along with this one.
“Dropping” and “hucking” are ways to describe subjecting one’s body to the undeniable forces of gravity via a terrain park or just an old-fashioned cliff. In other words, jumping off “stuff” with one or two sticks attached to your feet. Incidentally, Jackson is a great place for knee operations and physical therapy in general.
Our “lines” are the routes we choose on our way down the mountain and terms like “shit” and “sick” actually mean exactly the opposite of their literal interpretation. When someone is good at sliding over the snow, they “rip”. “That chick rips” is one of the higher compliments a woman can receive in this valley.
So who are the “bro-bras”? They are the guys and gals who use insistently and excessively use these terms. When they brag/exaggerate about their brilliant gravitational defiance, the rest of us say they’re “spraying”. And nobody likes a sprayer. There is a lot of raw talent in this valley, but the coolest athletes are the ones who are secure enough with their talent to put it out there for the world to see and let the buzz build on its own- or not at all. After years immersed in this environment, it really just comes down to how much fun you’re having out there.
Amazing talented athlete video of the day: Inspired Bicycles – Danny MacAskill April 2009
The fortunate thing about living in an outdoor town is that if you’re lucky, work can coincide with your outdoor passions. This very thing happened to me last week. To relate the two, a little background:
I was designing a postcard for a sort of travel agent company. They asked for a identifiable, classic Jackson Hole ski shot on the back. I found an image with two 20-something women drinking beer on a deck overlooking the ski area and thought “now THAT’s a ski vacation”. The agency I was working for also loved it, but said I needed to provide further options as the company had something different in mind. My rationale for using the beer image was the following:
“Skiing, especially at Jackson, is a challenge. By their very nature, challenges are uncomfortable. But skiing is about more than strapping on two sticks and sliding down the hill. It’s about reliving the challenges of the day with a great excuse to drink beer at 3pm with people you just shared an amazing experience with. The beer image invokes the nostalgia of relaxing and the entire experience of ski vacation; not just the mountain. It’s also a part of the ski experience that non-skiing family members can participate in (Jackson is often criticized for not having many non-skiing activities).”
The client bought the image.
If you’re looking for my graphic design business site, click here.
Website of the Day: www.apres.org, “A Singles Club for Active Adults”