There are lots of ways to experience a ski resort. You can cruise the blues, challenge yourself on the blacks, hit the terrain parks, or just dress really cool and hang out in the lodge all day. But when this New York City snow bum (who only started riding in his mid-20s) visited Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I learned the best route to mountain euphoria may lie beyond the areas of the hill covered in Hot Tub Time Machine. As we head toward the end of the season, here are three intriguing alternatives…with video!
1. Ride With a Pro
I got lucky. When I mentioned to my friend Zahan in the Jackson Hole PR department that I’d be in the area for a planned heli-boarding trip in Idaho, he connected me with Kim at Four Seasons, who offered to put me up for a couple nights. (Beautiful room, fantastic food, hot tubs—I couldn’t complain.) He also took me on a tour of the resort’s killer new Stash parks and set me up a local pro, Bryan Iguchi, a California native who’s been repping Jackson for almost two decades. Super-nice guy and a ridiculous rider who took the time on one lift ride to explain how to pull a backside 360. In short: 1. Find a jump that you’re comfortable with (and that’s at least big enough for a 180). 2. Visualize the approach, takeoff, trick and landing. 3. Lean toward your toe side as you approach with decent speed. 4. Rotate your shoulder the opposite direction of the spin to “wind up.” 5. As you hit the lip, twist your body, swing your arms and crank your neck around so as to spot your landing. 6. As your rotation progresses, slow the motion down to unwind. 7. Stomp the landing and ride away. Or, just watch Brian and learn. (Apologies for the Zapruder-like footage. Helmet cam novice here.)
2. Hike From the Tram
Jackson is famous for its big red tram, which takes skiers and boarders to the top of the mountain in just a few minutes. When the heli trip fell through due to unfavorable conditions (not enough new snow), I managed to crash my friend Kristan’s place for the weekend. Like most Jacksonians, she’s gnarlier-than-average, and she quickly invited me to join her, her skier friends Tracy and Nico, and her hilarious college-age snowboarding cousins, Jon and Tyler, on a little off-the-tram adventure. That turned out to be an epic hike, complete with avalanche transceivers, to a massive face called No Name. It was rather harrowing for the snowboarders in the group to lug boards up rocky pitches and navigate narrow traverses over the course of a couple hours, but at the end, sweaty and exhausted, we found paradise. A gorgeous view and a steep drop into a deep, wide, virtually untracked descent. Thankfully, I’d brought my Flip Cam, and Tracy shot a video of me cruising down. (Special thanks to Reality Rocks, which supplied the soundtrack for this clip and the next one.) Two hours of hiking for 60 seconds of bliss may seem like an uneven ratio, but as anyone who has earned their turns knows, it’s totally worth it.
3. Go Way Off the Reservation
My last day in Jackson, another friend, Don, offered to guide me up Mount Glory. This quest, which Don does almost daily, began at 6:25 a.m., when he picked me up for the 20-minute drive to a parking lot about halfway over Teton Pass. We sipped coffee, strapped on transceivers and got moving. It was overcast, and all we could see was pure white snow—six inches had fallen overnight—and trees. The pitch was steep, and I was huffing after 10 minutes. “Is this like a casual stroll for you?” I asked. “Pretty much, yeah,” Don replied. After an hour of climbing, we reached the top to find an almost-buried snow hut. We crawled inside, ate a couple Kate’s Tram Bars, took a quick pull from a flask for warmth, and ventured back out. After a brief traverse, we hit a sweet chute, spraying powder everywhere as we bombed and slashed. From there, we rode uneven fluff before navigating trees spaced just wide enough to be fun without being deadly. Fifteen minutes later, we concluded our ride at the road, then hitchhiked back to the parking lot. My epic adventure was over. But not without cool memories and a cooler video, shot on our helmet cams and brilliantly edited by Don.
If you’re wondering who the guy flying all over the snow is, that is most definitely him, not me. But even with my limited skills, I highly recommend getting off the beaten track (with people who know what they’re doing, of course). How to do that? Check if your mountain has a “first tracks” program, which lets you board the lifts before everyone else to get the freshest snow. Or simply buy a round for the locals in the lodge, who can likely direct you to gladed runs, “sidecountry” access (out-of-bounds spots just off the lifts) and mini-hikes to the best terrain. And bring a camera. After all, you just might find yourself looking at the slopes in a whole new way.
(Steve Mazzucchi is Managing Editor of Made Man. Email him at smazzucchi[at]breakmedia.com.)