Video and Words by Matt Hansen
Editing by Derek Taylor
Fifty-five inches in six days. This is what the books say when you tally up the snowfall in the Tetons from Feb. 20 to Feb. 25, 2011. Which is pretty good, but not epic by any means.
But that's not what it looked like on the ground. Snowfall counts might be great for setting standards, but they don't account for variations in terrain, wind deposition, and micro systems generated by the mountains themselves.
On Feb. 24, Dynafit and Denny Ink, a public relations firm based in Jackson Hole, led a group of five to the Baldy Knoll Yurt, which lies deep on the west slope of the Tetons. Aside from the occasional snowmobiler on the five-mile approach, there were no other people for miles, as it's too far for any day skiers, and the yurt is the only place to stay outside of a snow cave or tent. At 8,800 feet, the Baldy Knoll Yurt is the most remote hut in the Tetons. It is maintained by Rendezvous Backcountry Tours, and is within the Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area. Chris Denny, founder and president of Denny Ink, says it's like skiing where the gnomes live: massive drainages, offset by cliffs and valleys and basins. Your sense of direction is lost back here, especially during a massive snowstorm. It is another world, far removed from the tracked-out craziness of Jackson or the Wasatch.
The conditions were classic snow globe: huge continuous flakes, temperature in the teens, with hardly a breath of wind. The group set every skin track, and dealt with snow that was up to their chests in spots.
As the video shows, the snow may have been deeper than reported. And if anything, it helps to be in the right place, at the right time.
Boots: TLT5 (aka "the elf boot")
Skis: The Stoke
Bindings: Vertical FT 12
Rendezvous Backcountry Tours