Until recently, I’ve made my adult life about living in truly amazing places (now it’s about love… insert groan here). At least, places that were amazing to me and other like-minded people. These people would not include those that value big box stores and convenience, but rather huge ski bowls and epic whitewater (Vail), endless mountain bike single track with incredibly steep ski terrain (Jackson) or amazing and accessible climbing (Bouder). Not shockingly, these places were also frequented by tourists – lots and lots of tourists. But now I live in a decidedly non-tourist town, yet we just had the biggest friend gathering in any one place to-date. What gives?
I think the answer would be good friends. We hosted a backyard BBQ to celebrate our nuptials last winter, which was an immediate family only affair. But last week, an almost overwhelming number of friends and relatives flooded Casper from Seattle, Virginia, Michigan, Telluride, Boston and reason driving distances such as Denver and Jackson. While this may not be shocking to you, it was a valuable lesson to me. It’s relatively easy to see friends and acquaintances when you live in a place like Jackson, where 4 million people visit a year just because it’s that awesome of a place. And while Casper does have a few merits (many of which have been previously highlighted by this blog), it mostly takes a strong desire to spend time with people and a concentrated effort to get here. Which is why we extra appreciated the effort. There has to be a lesson somewhere in here about the important things in life being people over skiing/climbing/biking. Maybe?
With low levels of snow and high avalanche danger, skiing around the Teton Valley last weekend required careful decisions. We settled on Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming and it proved to be an excellent choice.
To get to Targhee (or, the Ghee, as the locals say) from Jackson, one must drive over Teton Pass, into Idaho in order to cross back into Wyoming. If you’re coming from Jackson Hole Airport, the drive will take you 1.5 hours, but only about an hour if you’re coming from town, which can be totally worth it.
Grand Targhee gets a lot of snow – as you have to if you’re so bold as to mark the POWDER AREA on your trail map. That’s right- grab a trail map and locate the POWDER AREA for likely powder. While Sunday wasn’t exactly ‘blower’ (as in so much powder snow in blowing in your face), the snow was actually good.
The groomers were fast and grippy with the only speed limits imposed by how adept your are at dodging tourists, and there weren’t many of those. In fact, we skied on to every lift all day long. The only crowds worth noting were in the Trapper Bar, but given the calendar (it was New Year’s Day) and the amount of ball games on, that’s not exactly a surprise. They’d had 12″ of new snow in the last two days and the rocks showing were equivalent to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on any given heart-of-winter powder day.
And the best part was the lack of rush. On a really blower day (see above for definition), there’s an underlying push to get in as many laps as possible in order to find the best, deepest snow on the mountain before everyone else. Since 11″ of the new snow fell the day before and 1″ overnight, the rush was off. We could cruise groomers or soft, pillowy snow and eat a leisurely, full-service lunch instead of horking down Cliff Bars on the chair lift. We were in such a not-hurry that we left before the lifts closed to stop for beers in the driveway of a good friend living in Victor, Idaho and again for wine in Wilson. It was a very, very slow drive back to Jackson (lest you worry, I was not driving). As I get older and dare I say wiser, I am beginning to suspect that it’s all part of the fun of skiing.
Targhee-tip-of-the-day: There’s a new shuttle from the town of Jackson to Targhee! At just $94.88 for shuttle and lift ticket, it’s a must for apre lovers. For more info on the Targhee Express, click here.
When a friend offered to show me and my sister around Cody this weekend, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to escape the Jackson labor day crowds and explore Yellowstone’s east gate. What I hadn’t expected was the rich history of a small town that felt pretty secure with its real-deal western roots.
Cody is located outside the east gate of Yellowstone that I have somehow managed to miss until this point. I’ve frequented West Yellowstone both by snowmobile and car and even walked several days to reach Gartner, Montana (the journey being the destination, of course) out the northeast gate of the park, but somehow have skipped Cody. And I’m not the only one.
Cody was (gasp!) filled with locals. Wyoming license plates begin with a two-digit county designation that makes it excruciatingly easy to identify where a car is from. Teton county plates boast “22” and are a prime target for small town speed traps all over the rest of the state. Incidentally, “small town speed traps” is a fair description for the majority of our nation’s least populated state. But in Cody, all I saw was “11”. 11 on the RV’s at the campgrounds and 11 outside the local Silver Dollar Bar (never to be confused with Jackson’s Silver Dollar bar- they still allow smoking in this one). We were utterly surrounded with that rarest of breeds, the Wyoming local.
We entered what appeared to be the epicenter of the native habitat with lunch at Pete’s, more formerly known as Peter’s Cafe & Bakery. I ordered the egg salad sandwich and the grandmotherly lady scooping it up commented, “the only problem with this sandwich is that it’s messy.” I answered “that’s what makes it so good” and she affirmed with a “this one’s really good. I made it myself an hour ago.”
I took that as a pretty good sign. Anytime someone that looks like a grandma is selling food she made herself I get pretty excited. And she delivered.
Cody is named after William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody and the legends fully live up to his colorful name. The first story came from my raft guide friend (so you know if must be true) as we approached the Buffalo Bill Dam. Old Bill wanted the people that lived in the canyon to move up to Cody and increase the population of his town. The people of the canyon said “no thanks”, so he built a massive dam (the tallest in the world on its completion in 1910) and proceeded to flood the canyon. The people moved to Cody. Nice guy, that Buffalo Bill.
I’m not sure how big Buffalo Bill dreamed Cody would become, but it sits at a grand total of 9.5 miles today. It calls itself “The Rodeo Capital of the World” and depends mostly on tourism. It’s always, always windy and either crazy hot or crazy cold. Money flows in off and on from oil but it seems like a large part of what keeps life simple is the notorious Buffalo Bill Dam. It irrigates over 93,000 of farmland in the Bighorn Basin. Maybe that Buffalo Bill wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
You Tube of the Day: cover of Taylor Swift’s Love Story This guy re-wrote the lyrics from Romeo’s perspective and sang/played them on You Tube. Taylor Swift tweeted and posted on FB about it. Interesting to see if the kid gets a record contract from this. Social media and old-fashioned “anyone can do it” American opportunities at their best.