(Ed’s note: We hoped to publish this piece closer to when it actually went down… before the huge storm cycle, but events of the week pushed it back.)
By Kim Havell
Snow this season, thus far, has been scarce throughout much of the U.S., and winter has denied many of us. So, it means you just have to get creative about finding your powder.
Based out of the Wasatch this winter, I have found some good stashes with the help of local friends. But, those spots have limits. So I decided to travel in search of snow. A four-hour drive north, Jackson, Wyo., beckoned as it has fared better than other ski locales in the West. And, Grand Teton National Park, in particular, offers some great adventure options with its high peaks, protected canyons, and exciting routes.
Finding good partners for adventures is important. For this trip, I linked up with Teton fast man and expert backcountry local, Steve Romeo, aka “randosteve,” of the mega popular site tetonat.com. Also joining the team was local Greg von Doersten (“Geeves/Jimmy Dean/GVD/Von D”), an uber-talented photographer and international adventurer. With Steve and Greg, and a couple of other partners—Chris Onufer and John Walker, our team skied three great descents in the Tetons the week (before the storms arrived).
Averaging six to eight hours roundtrip, we invested some leg power in getting up high. We skied the Southeast Couloir of Teewinot Peak, the lower saddle of the Grand Teton, and the Sneaker Couloir of Cloudveil Dome. Each route offered a lot of variety in conditions off the top, but, with each endeavor, we skied powder and that felt good.
Conditions changed throughout the week. Teewinot offered up a warm day with a “sea of dreams” perspective. As we climbed up above a cloud layer covering the lower valley, we broke into the sunshine and clear skies above 10,000 feet, with a stunning view across the pillowed horizon. The Grand Teton saddle was a -20F degree morning start that didn’t quite warm up for the day, but the cold kept the fresh snow on its flanks in pristine powder condition. And, our last venture up for Cloudveil Dome was a mere -2F degree start, balmy in comparison to the preceding tour, but with cold gusts of 50 mph winds on the upper sections.
We saw an occasional party around and about during our forays, with some successes and some retreats. Cautious evaluations were made by all groups on which aspect to ski and what elevations to reach. There was a team that summitted the Middle Teton, as well as another pair whom we watched retreat from a different aspect of the same mountain.
When you have friends with excellent local knowledge and skill, honed over many years in the area, it can make a world of difference in selecting a safe approach to a carefully selected objective. As randosteve says, “Live to ski,” and as Von D would say, “and to have a beer at Dornans”… and so we did.