Gone Skiing

For the sake of it.

With an early-season snowpack as shallow as a Rand Paul / Rick Perry debate, I decided it was time to search for snow someplace else. The plan: load up the car and head south. Targhee, Teton Pass, the Wind River backcountry—simple as that. I wasn’t chasing storms, but rather going for a drive. If it snowed, bonus.


The open road, with the Tetons in the distance

I left on a Friday, and without hurrying much, made it to Targhee in time for après. 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 questions later.) Temps hovered in the mid-30s and my compact car 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. 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. The snow was dust-on-crust and the visibility was terrible, but 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.

Typical view at "Grand Foggee"

It snowed throughout the day, making each run better than the last, and by the time I was ready to call it, 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 some time 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. Your move.