08 December 2014

A Dry Spell

Grand Targhee delayed opening its fourth and finest chairlift for two weeks, forcing everyone to ride foggy, windy, mediocre Dreamcatcher. The rest of the mountain had been chewed up by holiday tourists and repeatedly battered by weird warm weather, but Sacajawea was untouched. I watched the resort website for news, fingers crossed for a Friday opening. My dream came true, so Tyler and I headed up early enough to snag a good chair. The lifties and locals alike were in high spirits; Sacajawea is the best. It has nicely spaced trees, bush jumps, rock hucks, cliffs, deep and resilient powder stashes, and plenty of opportunities to hot dog under the lift and get hoots and hollers from above or eat shit trying. What a day. We ripped hot laps, hopped and bounced and popped off every bush, rock, compression, and depression, rejoiced when patrol opened the cliff band. I skied fast and happy, reckless and loose, grinning the whole time.

Tyler scoring some just-opened action
The next day we went back to the Ghee, but I'd forgotten how to ski. I'd lost that ephemeral je ne sais quoi and the snow, so smooth and rewarding on Friday, was haggard by Saturday. But we hiked to some of the resort's traffic-free sweet spots and rode with a rotating cast of friends through the day and ate Wydaho nachos at the Trap and it was fine. Not every day can be the best day of the season.

That night was the GTBC holiday party. The brewery employees and their partners are all awesome people that like spending time together outside of work, on the trails, in the snow, or at the bar, so the party was devoid of those stilted conversations between ensnared work acquaintances. I sat with a bunch of friends, enjoying the familiarity of the staff trivia quiz and the belly laughs of the white elephant gift-giving, as well as the exquisite lamb and on-point beer pairings (thanks as usual to Max the cicerone). The raucous after-party gravitated to the closest employee's house and so of course Sunday morning was a slow-moving endeavor. 

Knowing all ski options were dubious, we opted to tour Oliver Peak, five minutes from the house and better known as the Valley's own personal hill (no J-holes allowed). The snow quality was sub-par as anticipated and the springlike temps warranted bare skin, but higher up the outlook was rosier; the snowpack was deep and stable and the surrounding bowls and glades and gullies were enticing and untouched. 

A lifetime's worth of backcountry opportunities

We took a northwest slide path down from the summit into Stateline Canyon, making big picturesque turns in what was probably six sugary inches on top of a firm but yielding layer. The goods. Lower down the snow became laughably bad, a thick crunchy turn-averse crust that made the sapling-dense creek banks scary. Our old roommate Bill had just taken a digger in similar terrain a couple days before and did something alarming to his knee. I took the unusual precaution of putting my skins back on for the safety of extra friction and was very pleased with the decision, arriving back at the car without any of the wallowing and sweaty frustration that low-elevation gully skiing usually causes me. 

Rare is the day that there isn't a front moving into or out of the Valley
And thus, I survived another high-pressure weekend despite being spoiled rotten by constant snowfall in the Tetons.