In October, I wrote that fall is Jackson Hole’s finest season. Come July, as the valley swells with indigenous life forms and human visitors from every corner of the globe, I may (again) claim summer is Northwest Wyoming’s most vital time of year
Today, however, I am moved by the pure passion of the winter season. I write from my office at the bottom of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on the eve of a snowstorm that is predicted to last all week. The energy and anticipation is palpable, in both the swirling alpine air as well as the hushed excitement of the throngs here for the President’s Day holiday.
Stoke for the impending snowstorm is perhaps even higher for those who live here than the visitors. Many a “powder clause” will be invoked as the week goes on by those of us who love to ski so we can take advantage of premium conditions that may only come a handful of times a year. As I peruse Facebook this afternoon, links to NOAA Radar pages and mountain weather forecasts abound.
I especially love when someone shares a forecast in ALL CAPS!
SNOW WILL INCREASE ACROSS THE WESTERN MOUNTAINS THROUGH THE NIGHT AS THE WINDS START TO PICK UP. A WINTER STORM WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR TUESDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY NIGHT. PERIODS OF MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW ARE EXPECTED. SNOWFALL OF TWO TO THREE FEET IS EXPECTED IN THE TETONS.
When the flakes start flying, I’ll check out the Webcams at the top of Teton Pass and throughout Teton County.
One irony of Jackson Hole is that the number of summer visitors dwarfs the amount of people that come during winter, but the single most popular reason people visit the region is to ski or snowboard. People come to Jackson Hole in the summer to fish, hike, raft, bike, horseback ride, tour the national parks and more or to simply soak up the best weather on Earth. In the winter, most come despite some of the harshest weather in the country because it creates ideal conditions for the pastimes they care passionately about.
And within the winter season, the period between Valentine’s Day and early April is clearly the nectar. At Snow King, the north-facing Town Hill can be a cold, dark, icy place between snowfalls in December and January, but by mid-February the sun finally finds the slopes and a lunch run is a wonderful way to get some color on your face and a little exercise. At JHMR and Targhee, the warming trend often means big dumps of high-moisture content snow that eventually turns to delicious corn conditions once the lifts stop turning.
The next several weeks also feature some of the winter’s best events with the Town Downhill, Pole Pedal Paddle, World Championship Hill Climb, Cutter Races, WinterFest and other sporting events as well as a slew of live entertainment acts aimed at serving the younger visitors and seasonal workers.
Yes, winter can be overbearing sometimes. Inevitably there will be a two-week stretch, or more, when the temperature fails to rise above zero and your nose hairs freeze, your joints creek and your car hates you for starting it. And shoveling snow is a pain in the back that gets old early in December. There’s no sugarcoating it.
But for those willing to brave the conditions, for those who share a passion for the outdoors when they are the least hospitable, I’ve found there is a reward just a little sweeter than those earned the rest of the year.