A Grand Targhee road-trip.
Last winter, with an early-season snowpack about as shallow as a roadside mud-puddle, I decided it was time to search for snow someplace else. The plan: load up the car and head south to Targhee—simple as that. I wasn’t chasing storms, but rather going for a drive. If it snowed, bonus.
I left on a Friday, and without hurrying much, made it in time for drinks at the Trap. I was on a budget and tried to talk my way into sleeping in the parking lot, but overnight parking at Targhee is reserved for campers, so I was directed to a pullout a couple miles down the road. (Note to self: next time, park at the hill and ask for forgiveness, not permission.) Temps hovered in the mid-30s and my compact car quickly became a sauna; I ended up shedding layers in the night.
Morning brought a sight for a skier’s sore eyes: three inches clung to my ride. Not overhead cold smoke, but nothing to shake a stick at. Having spent the night basking in post-burrito-and-Rainier air, I was more than happy to rise early and hit the slopes. To my surprise, the base area was empty. A few school groups crowded the rental shop, and some locals swapped lamentations over coffee, but contrary to my fears of powder-hungry masses descending on the hill, everybody seemed much less stoked about three inches than I was. No problem; more “fresh tracks” for me.
After two laps on Dreamcatcher, Targhee’s base-area chair, I made my way to Blackfoot, a two-person, center-bar number, a la Bridger's Virginia City lift (this lift has been upgraded for the 2016-17 ski season). And that’s where the magic happened. I rode that chair lap after lap after lap. For six hours, I spent ten minutes going up, and two minutes coming down. Much of the snow was dust-on-crust and the visibility was terrible, but overall the skiing was excellent. My dogs barked and my legs howled.I crashed, made turns I considered perfect, and needed more breaks than I was proud of. I talked to strangers, who by the end of the day had plans to head north and ski with me at Bridger. I figured we could ride PK all day and have just as much fun.
It snowed throughout the afternoon, making each run better than the last, and by the time I was ready to call it a day, four or five fresh inches had fallen. I’ll be staying another day, thank you very much. Maybe I’ll ride more than one chair, maybe not. Either way, there’ll be snow to ski and strangers to meet. There’ll be crashes and perfect turns and the possibilities will seem endless.
Even one chair, at one mountain, can be the source of endless opportunities. Every lap down the same run is different, and as long as there’s a way to go up, going down will bring a smile to my face.
This season, ski when you can, whenever you can. Take road-trips, ski for an hour at Bridger, or spend more money on a vacation than you should. It’s an opportunity, one that sometime in the not-so-distant future you might not be able to take advantage of. When that time comes, you’ll want the stories and the memories. For now, there’s snow in the mountains and more in the forecast.
36 Hrs. in Driggs
While the word is out, Driggs is still a small town, so it doesn’t take long to get the lay of the land. If you arrive in time, head straight for the resort—après at the Trap is a must. There’s almost always live music, and being that it’s the only option up at the hill, the scene gets pretty rowdy. If work keeps you in Bozeman late, save it for Saturday. Driggs has other great options when it comes to food and drink, such as the newish Tatanka Tavern, which has great beer on tap and excellent pizzas. If you’re in the mood for some spice, hit up Teton Thai and get some curry—portions are such that you can take a doggy-bag for the next day’s lunch. More in the mood for a burger or some wings? The Royal Wolf is classic and makes for the perfect pre-drive pit stop on Sunday for football fans. Ski the morning and catch the afternoon games before returning to Bozeman. Sunday morning brings us to breakfast, of which you’ll get your fill at Big Hole Bagels & Bistro. Fuel up with a coffee and an egg sandwich—theirs are loaded up with the meat of your choice and cheese. If you’re driving, choose sausage, as it stays together better than bacon.