Jackson Hole Snow Reports

WYDAHO Snow Report 2015

I’ve gotten some complaints about the load time for this page.  As such, starting in December 2014 each Wydaho Snow Report will have its own post accessible from The Sheepeater homepage.

These snow reports focus on snow *quality* not snow *safety*.  For the latest weather reports and avalanche forecasts consider these links:

Teton Range Avalanche Forecast http://ow.ly/t5yCn
Rendezvous Summit 48 Hour Wind Graph http://ow.ly/t7UsX
JH Weather Observations http://ow.ly/t7UIR
JH Weather Webcams http://ow.ly/t7V2m
JH Weather Forecast http://ow.ly/t7UTU
Togwotee Pass Avalanche Forecast http://ow.ly/t7Ubb
Grey’s River Avalanche Forecast http://ow.ly/t7U6n

11.30.14: TETON PASS: MT GLORY: CHICKEN SCRATCH, FIRST TURN, COAL CREEK: MT ELLY: THE CLAW: Today was one of the best ski days of my “career” as a ski bum.  The snow was perfect in spots, atrocious in others (more on that later).  The best part was skiing with some great friends new and old.

Today I met up with Stoked Steve and Dusty Bottoms for an “early morning” lap on Glory.  Apparently we weren’t quite early enough because we barely got a parking spot at the summit.

As we were hiking up I noticed a BD freight train approaching from below, and it was none other than my old friend Kris (The Lun Show aka Lunner) Lunning.  Kris taught me a lot about skiing and climbing when I first moved to town and we had some classic Teton adventures (and misadventures) in our early 20s.

After spending the better part of a decade racing road bikes in San Francisco, Kris is back in Driggs so hopefully we can pick up where we left off: exploring mountains and skiing pow together.  Naturally, he put the hurt on me in the bootpack, providing a painful reminder to get my ass back in shape.

Max and Kris on Mt Glory summit: 11.30.14: Strong winds had stripped most of the new snow and some of the old from exposed aspects like this.
Max and Kris on Mt Glory summit: 11.30.14: Strong winds had stripped most of the new snow and some of the old from exposed areas like this.

It hadn’t snowed as much as predicted (perhaps 6-10 inches on Glory) but strong winds from the WSW had stripped a lot of snow from some aspects and redeposited it elsewhere.  We headed down the NE Ridge in hopes of finding deep drifts.  The Ridge alternated from creamy pow to dust on crust until we dipped into the pow field above Chicken Scratch where conditions became superb.

The snow seemed to have come in warm and wet before cooler temps prevailed, and to have bonded well with the bed surface below so we opted to try Chicken Scratch.  WOW.

Coverage was good.  Snow was perfect.  Sometimes strong winds from assorted aspects spin around in the CS slots and create a nasty crust but there was none of that today.

The least experienced rider in our group made a wrong turn in the crux of CS and had to slog back up or take a mandatory 60 footer.  We encouraged him to hike so that’s what he did.  It was a good reminder that saavy skiers should be really clear when explaining a route to  less experienced friends, and that less experienced friends should contain their excitement enough to follow tracks exactly in steep and cliffy terrain.

After traversing skier’s right back to the ridge coverage was adequate but not ideal on the lower flanks of the NE Ridge.  We dropped into the NE drainage and it was decent skiing down to the road.  Some turns were bottomless cream.  Some were dust on crust.  We hit a few rocks but nothing major.

It was good enough that we opted to ascend Glory again.  Skier’s Left of Twin Slides looked pretty tasty so we opted to ski the gut of First Turn in hopes of finding similar conditions.  By this time it had gone bluebird and the sun was warming things up as a moderate breeze from the SW cooled them back down again.

First Turn faces S generally but parts of it can get windloaded nicely by a SW wind.  It was a little spicey in spots and perfect creamy pow in others.  Finding that a few degrees of aspect made all the difference had us hunting out the goods while trying to avoid the crud.  In protected trees and gullies the snow was good from ~200′ below the summit of Glory to the road below.  The upper ~200′ of Glory was stripped of most new snow (and some old) on windward aspects.

We skied down Old Pass Road back to the car.  It was actually pretty creamy and delicious down there too.  The breakable crusts we’d experienced higher up were less of an issue as the sun had softened S aspects out of the wind by this time.

In the Trail Creek parking lot I spotted Tinkerbelle herself, aka Mere-Bear — spandex and all! — and we made plans to ski that afternoon.  She skinned up the Old Pass Road while I went to Pearl Street in Wilson to eat and read the paper.  An hour later I hitched back up the Pass and BSed with the boys up there until Mere arrived.  Team Red Flag’s reunion didn’t last long: she had her skis loaded up and was crossing the road before I had time to think.

Even though Mere was having a “recovery day” she whooped my ass up the Glory bootpack even worse that Lunner had.

Apparently some local ladies are offended by the pics Mere is posting of her recent trip to Hawaii with her boyfriend (sorry guys) Owen.  I don't see what the problem could possibly be. :)
Apparently some local ladies are offended by the pics Mere has posted of her recent trip to Hawaii with her boyfriend (sorry guys) Owen. I don’t see what the problem could possibly be.

I had plenty of motivation to keep up with Mere-Bear but couldn’t.  Granted she was carrying the lightest of the lightest gear while I lugged pigs around, but I got the message: drop some pounds, quit smoking completely, and get back in shape.

Team Red Flag: 11.30.14
Team Red Flag: 11.30.14: Those huge blue gloves are super duper fun to fool around with.

By this time the wind had died and everything sunkissed was getting warm.  We decided to ski Coal Creek in hopes of finding protected pow.  The ridge down was variable but fun.  The shady steeps were incredible.  The outrun was fun but a little icy in spots.

One of the funnest things about skiing with Mere is that there’s no waiting ever.  In fact, she’s waiting for me more often than not.  Her standard ski setup is the lightest race gear out there: only 161cm length and 62mm underfoot.  She charges effortlessly on that gear through the deepest pow and steepest terrain.  Its fun to watch.

The shady steeps in Coal Creek had been so fun that we skinned out to The Claw for a sunset run.  Mere reined it in a little bit and we had a nice conversation.  As we cruised the meadow above The Claw the Sleeping Indian was all lit up in a very inspiring way.

The Claw hadn’t seen much traffic.  We skied the saddle gut and it was great top to bottom.  Coverage is good aside from the dense trees that need to be negotiated near the bottom.  The meadow below The Claw was creamy and smooth today: a far cry different than it was two days prior.

I skied my face off today because I’m heading back into a 5 day work week with a few doubles thrown in for good measure.  I think it will remain good top to bottom for a few days on stuff similar to Coal Creek and The Claw.  Happy hunting.  Make a few turns for the poor working stiffs like me. 😛

11.28.14: TETON PASS: MT GLORY: COAL CREEK: MT ELLY: THE CLAW: Today I was reminded of a pearl of wisdom Wild Bill dropped on me last spring when we were skiing less than ideal conditions in GTNP: “There’s no bad snow, only bad skiers.”  Coming from that perspective today the snow was world class in spots and quite challenging in others.

This morning Maestra and I slept in at the base of Teton Pass after a great party off Nethercott and a pre-dawn visit from a friendly Sheriff’s Deputy who informed me that we weren’t allowed to park overnight in JHMR’s Stilson Lot.  Apparently they’re cracking down hard out the gate this season to keep the ski bums from having too much affordable fun.

We awoke mid-morning to hear the road ice crackling as dog walkers and XC skiers milled about near Trail Creek.  I didn’t have exceptionally high hopes. but the dog and I were both exceptionally bloated from yesterday’s feast so we drove up the Pass and started booting up Glory.  I soon noticed that the snow in the shade and protected from the wind was still soft and sugary right out of the lot.  Score.

We opted to drop in to Coal Creek and the shady, leeward slopes there were great creamy sugar.  The mellow meadows above Calvert’s Ridge were variable and blown off but not too suncrusted.  As soon as we hit the saddle where the ridge narrows a nasty refrozen crust formed so we dropped straight North into heaven.  The coverage was OK but the trees and deadfall were too dense in some spots due to early season conditions.  Out the bottom it was good in the shade until we joined the main fork of Coal Creek where the snow got scary crusty.  Further along the Creek it got slushy and funner.

We hitched back up, ate a delicious turkey leg with the Pass Ambassador, and skinned out to The Claw in hopes of finding similar shady sugar snow.  The skin track was well-worn out to Avy Bowl. but only a few people have ventured out to The Claw or The Playboy Chutes.  The gut of The Claw was wind-hammered crust up top, and then firm slide path and debris from what appeared to be a skier triggered sluff.   Other sluffs had released (naturally?) in the cliffbands.  Skiing outside of the slide paths was good creamy pow all the way down to the mellow meadow below which was breakable sun death crust until we hit the creek crossing where things started to soften up a little.  Coverage on the Old Pass Road was good but it was stop and go sunslush and shadecrust type snow.

It’s apparently supposed to puke snow and nuke winds tonight after midnight through the weekend.  Right now (7pm) its 45*F in JH, 36*F at the top of Teton Pass, and 28*F at the top of JHMR.  Hopefully the snow comes in warm and wet at first and bonds well to the existing snowpack.  Temps are supposed to drop as the storm progresses.  Winds are supposed to be strong so I’ll be watching where the snow blows closely.  Have fun and be safe out there.

11.27.14: STAR VALLEY: FERRY PEAK: HIGH ABOVE THE MUCKY MUCK (I WISH): Happy Turkey Day!  Today’s fun fact is that Thanksgiving was originally established by the Governor of the Massachusetts Colony in 1637 to commemorate the slaughter of ~700 Pequots.  The flowery notion that it had something to do with brotherhood and sharing was written into the history books by the Lincoln Administration a few hundred years later.

But enough about the past, what about today?  Well, I went for an exploratory ski on Ferry Peak’s West flank.  I’m a recent transplant to Star Valley and need to get the approaches sorted out so I spent a few hours slogging around in the low angle slush.

The trees were still white higher on the mountain and the snow looked tasty up there but down low there were ample rain runnels in a sloppy snowpack.  It wasn’t too shallow — skiable top to bottom on the correct aspects — but it was too wet and heavy to safely venture on to the steep slopes overhead.

I think I’ll be skiing Teton Pass again tomorrow after a big party in Wilson tonight.  I’ll be sure to let everyone I chat with the real origins of Thanksgiving and I hope you do to because pretending that the original inhabitants of America were treated humanely by the white folks who came here later is a baldfaced lie.  I think it’s better to have the ugly truth than a comforting lie.


11.26.14: TETON PASS: MOUNT GLORY: SECOND TURN, FIRST TURN:
Today Maestra and I joined an almost non-existent crack of noon club and scored great conditions on the N side of Teton Pass.  Some aspects were wind scoured, some aspects had developed a zipper crust, and some aspects safeguarded perfect creamy pow.  It’s still out there…

Working days is really starting to get to me now that the snow is flying.  I love watching conditions change day after day and feel the need to stay on top of the snowpack so I don’t end up underneath it. After two days away from the rapidly changing mountains I don’t feel as aware as I’d like to be… so caveat lector.

Luckily I got released for the long weekend at 11:30 on Wednesday.  After four hours of squeegeeing the valley’s recent heavy rain/snow mix out of the jobsite we pulled the plug.

The thermometer in my car read 43*F, so I wasn’t too hopeful for good ski conditions atop Teton Pass. Fortunately the dog needed a walk, and it made sense to see how bad things were.  I wanted to know the snow so I could sleep in and lay low over the holiday weekend without jonesing for good snow that may or may not actually exist.  Now I guess I’ll be skiing today instead.

I heard discouraging remarks from friends at Headwall Sports and Pearl Street Bagels, but my mind was made up to see for myself.  As I rounded the last corner ascending the pass my thermometer registered 32*F and  the snow started looking fluffy.  The shady spots near the parking lot told me it would probably be a good afternoon.

Strong SW winds scoured some ridges and exposed faces.  Warm temps and lots of precip in the valleys created a freezing fog layer that the wind plastered to windward aspects resulting in a bit of a zipper crust on S aspects and beautiful frost formations on trees and manmade structures like the Glory radar reflector.

IMG_2123

The fog made for pretty poor visibility (perhaps 150ft) on the upper half of Glory.  We ran into our friend Cisco at the summit and decided to check out Coal Creek together.  The plateau down to Calvert’s was heavily wind scoured and the flat light made the steep drifts a little dangerous.  To be totally honest it was so foggy that we ended up in Second Turn instead on where we’d intended to go: just one more humbling mountain experience added to the pile.

The snow was great aside from a little zipper crust in places.  Dipping into the trees and skiing the NW side of ridges seemed to alleviate it.

The skiing was good enough that I went for seconds.  I planned to check out Coal Creek as I ascended but opted to ski First Turn instead because the fog was still heavy and it was getting a little late.  Conditions were similar and fun aside from heavy wind scouring getting into the shot and that minor zipper crust.

Driving down the Pass I saw a Honda CRV on its side right around the freezing line where a wet road became a slick road.  Two highway patrol SUVs were already on the scene so I kept driving.

I think N aspects at higher elevations will ski best over the holiday weekend.  Of course these aspects are also massivly windloaded with heavy, dense recent snow on top of a shallow base of sugary crap topped with a thin frosting of surface hoar that grew before our last week of heavy precip.  At lower elevations I imagine wet slides are a serious concern.  The avy danger won’t be stopping me but I will be paying attention and making notes.  Take care out there.

11.23.14: TETON PASS: MOUNT GLORY: FIRST TURN, COAL CREEK, SE RIDGE: Today was one of those days when the skiing was so good that I forgot to get the camera out.  My friend Boston Bellman Sean and I got lucky on a upper lot parking spot at 10am on a Sunday morning pre-JHMR opening day.  It was really windy (SW winds) and snowing intermittently today.  A lot of snow had gotten blown around and wind slabs had formed on affected aspects.

We stuck to slopes that had seen a lot of skier traffic prior to this storm cycle in hopes of finding a more stable base and less slippery avalanche sliding surface.  We didn’t see anything moving aside from one crown on the NE aspect of Taylor at mid-elevations.

Glory was in and out of the clouds all day and it was awesome.  I’m back to work tomorrow so it will be a few days before my next snow report.  Take care and have fun out there.

 

Naturally triggered avalanche next to the main trail out of Bradley-Taggart Parking Area.  GTNP: 11.22.14
Naturally triggered avalanche just off the valley floor next to the main trail just NW the Bradley-Taggart Parking Area. GTNP: 11.22.14

11.22.14: GTNP: Shadow Peak: Storm Skiing, Shooting Cracks, Sketchy Upside Down Slabs: Today I headed to GTNP just to see where we’re at snow wise.  It was my first walk in “The Park “for the 2014/15 season.  I ended up skinning NW from B-T Lot and skiing the safest route I know down Shadow Peak from the saddle below the summit knob.

There is enough snow to ski to/from Bradley-Taggart Parking Lot.  The standard creek crossing heading NW towards Garnet Canyon is doable but the potential to get wet exists.  Taggart Lake (the South lake) is ~95% frozen, but doesn’t look safe to cross yet.  Bradley Lake (the North lake) is not frozen at all: there were whitecaps on it at the time I skied past during the slogging re-ascent portion of my descent.  Heading back up the Southern Lateral Moraine of Garnet was brutal today and it added at least an hour to my tour.

It was puking wet, heavy snow today.  Temps hovered right around freezing in the parking lot when I got there at 8:30 am and had warmed a degree to 33*F when I got back to the car at 3pm.  I was the only car in the lot when I got there and only a lonely truck was left when I left there at 3:30pm.  I think they headed up 25 Short.

The snow has been accompanied by strong SSW winds  that are making dense, heavy slabs atop a sometime sugary, sometimes suncrusty, and frequently surface hoarish (thin) base.  I found an existing skin track but it was blown in to the point of being barely visible most of the time.

I didn’t see any slab movement until the steep, untreed portion ~1/2 way up the standard ascent ridge.   I experienced 4 instances of whoomphing and two instances of disconcerting shooting cracks on a NE aspect with heavy drifting.  By that point I was past what I consider the “crux” of the ascent’s avy dangers  so I opted to keep going.  I got the willies a few times and spent much of the ascent on my tip toes today.

Stomping on inconsequential drifts further up the ridge offered similar splintering cracks so I opted to ski dense trees on the upper NE ridge and open glades on the lower NE ridge.  I didn’t get anything to move during my descent (but then again I wasn’t turning around to check or stopping to find out!).  Heading back to the car I saw a small avalanche that appeared to have released naturally on heavily windloaded N aspect of the Taggart Lake Moraines.  I also saw a momma and baby moose right next to the trail so watch out for those two if you’re in the area.

I think the avy conditions are going to be super sketchy for the next several days with heavy wet snow bridging sugar, suncrust, and surface hoar.  Several days and perhaps several feet of colder snow is forecast to fall on that and the added weight will probably kick off a lot of naturally triggered avalanches.  I think I’ll be laying low and skiing mellow terrain that has already seen a lot of skier traffic.  Be safe out there.

11.21.14: Teton Pass: Mount Glory: S Aspect: Spectacular Sunset and Variable Sun Crusts: After five long days of work the white dog and I got out early enough today for a sunset ski on Mount Glory.  We hit the parking lot just as the alpenglow was getting going and made it halfway up before deciding to turn around.  We turned around partly to beat the dusk and partly because the snow on S and SE aspects pretty much sucked.  SW aspects and anything shady were a completely different story.

Coverage was surprisingly good.  We didn’t hit a thing.  Creative traversing West into the woods near 1st Turn yielded good sugary pow on untracked SW aspects and in the shade of trees.  Unshaded SE and S aspects offered atrocious breakable sun crusts.  There were lots of tracks and they were all pretty crusty on S aspects.

It was good to see what’s going on up there in preparation for adventures this weekend.  I’m probably heading to GTNP tomorrow so it was crucial to get the white dog out for a ski today so she doesn’t chew up my shoes while couchbound tomorrow.  I’ll probably hit up a NE facing terrain trap or two in hopes of finding deep drifts and sugary snow.  Hopefully coverage is good and crowds are minimal.

It looks like mid-winter to Maestra and me on the summit stretch of Mt. Glory. 11.15.14
It looks like mid-winter to Maestra and me on the summit stretch of Mt. Glory. 11.15.14

11.15.14: Teton Pass: Mount Glory: Opening Day at The Zoo!  It snowed off and on throughout the night while temps dropped into the low teens.  By dawn it was partly cloudy and setting up to be  a perfect powder day aside from the fact the base is still quite shallow.

Thanks to excellent work by WYDOT we got to the top of the Pass at 8:30 am and snagged one of the last remaining parking spots in the top lot.  Most skiers had headed out the South Side so we opted to give Mt. Glory another try with better visibility than the day before.  The clouds parted as we ascended making for a beautiful bluebird hike.

Mount Glory Bootpack Route
The first bluebird bootpacking up Mt. Glory! 11.15.14

We came upon Teton Pass Ambassador Jay Pistono and his family during the ascent and shared some stoke for the upcoming (ongoing?!) season.  Seeing that Jay was out made me feel a little less foolish about being out in early season low snow conditions.

Dani and I studied the snow in Twin Slides as we ascended and opted to drop in one bench below the Avalauncher which offered great skiing on smooth, soft snow top to bottom.  I ski cut the ridge cornice/drift and got the top 3-4″ to pop off in a short-lived soft slab but otherwise the snow seemed stable and surprisingly supporting for how new it was.  Both of us nicked something under the snow but suffered no damage.  We regrouped where the bootpack mellows out and opted to hike back up and check out 1st Turn from the summit.

The peak was in and out of the clouds all day and happened to be in the clouds when we summitted.  It was quite cold (perhaps 5F) and a little breezy as we changed over.  Freezing out in the elements where the Mt Glory hut used to be was a little depressing.

The Mount Glory hut no longer exists... for now.
The Mount Glory hut no longer exists… for now.

If our tax dollars were truly at work on our lands wouldn’t the Forest Circus be building shelters for backcountry skiers instead of tearing them down?  If the problem was a temporary hut made out of trash wouldn’t the logical solution be a proper permanent structure?

Anyway, we found surprisingly good coverage in the scree fields above 1st Turn and opted to risk the gut of the terrain trap from top to the hard traverse left.  It was worth the risk, yielding perfect powder and good coverage.  Both of us nicked a rock getting into the slot but once we were in the meat of the line the snow proved deep enough to lay down some hard turns.

Tomorrow should be even busier on Teton Pass than it was today… and tracked up.  I’m heading South in hopes of finding peaks offering bottom to top touring potential.  Wish me luck and the same to you.

Dani and Maestra testing the wind speed on Mt. Glory.  Maestra's ears were registering a Beaufort Force 6 breeze.
11.14.14: Dani and Maestra testing the wind speed on Mt. Glory. Maestra’s ears were registering a Beaufort Force 6 breeze.

11.14.14: Teton Pass: Mount Glory:  Instant winter?!  Today DD and I got the afternoon off because it was too snowy for construction.  We heard good things from friends who skied this morning so we headed to Teton Pass in the early afternoon to see how the new snow was shaping up.  It was dumping out then and it still is 8 hours later as I’m writing this.

The TOJ had 6-8 inches of fresh by mid-day and the top of Teton Pass had perhaps twice that much new snow.  The road itself was in slippery shape and we barely made it up in a front wheel drive wagon with snow tires.

The top lot was perhaps half full of cars and most skiers had headed South.  We opted to give Glory a try without any expectations.  We made it halfway up before opting to descend via Twin Slides.

A boot-pack had been set but it was totally blown in most of the way.  It was boot to knee deep with a few waist deep drifts.  A strong West wind was blowing and moving a lot of snow around.  We opted to turn around mid-mountain because the steeper, rockier slopes above didn’t seem to be holding snow as well as the mellower terrain below.

We descended carefully and made a few good turns atop deep leeward drifts.  I didn’t hit anything but I was skiing on really fat, floppy skis that float well.  The snow was sticky which made us glad that we’d taken the time to wax before heading out.

Long story short the coverage is still inadequate but that’s not going to keep a lot of people from skiing tomorrow.  I imagine that Teton Pass will be a zoo tomorrow so I’ll probably get an early start.

If you head out take it easy.  According to B-T Forecasters avalanche conditions are forecast to be CONSIDERABLE tomorrow at upper elevations and poor coverage makes the skiing even more dangerous.  Don’t get hurt before the season begins!

Jackson Hole Snow Reports
Dawn on Teton Pass: 11.12.14: -10F and beautiful! Photo by Dani DeRuyter.

11.12.14: Teton Pass: South Side: Brutal Wind Chill: Today was my first ski of the 2014/15 season.  I’ve been working construction this fall and it has been relatively painless working five days per week on account of the meager snowfall thus far.  We got a fair bit of snow on the 10th and 11th, and watching the Teton Range look so gorgeous from the job site yesterday had me itching to see what’s up there today.

Fortunately, it was too cold to work this morning (-15F in Driggs and maybe -10F in Jackson) so I went skiing instead.  My partner and I hit the upper lot in the alpenglow and found only one car in the lot: Igneous Paris’s White Landcruiser.  We all headed out the South Side in the bitter cold under a beautiful, natural sundog.

There were a few tracks down Twin Slides on Glory, two tracks off the nose of Edelweiss, several tracks down Avy Bowl, and two tracks down Thanksgiving Bowl.  Thanksgiving Bowl looked best so my partner and I planned to head out there.

The wind started picking up and it got painfully cold.  Clearly I’m not acclimated for -30F windchills yet (if ever) we we opted to cut back up Chivers to Telemark Bowl and made a few shallow turns and a big traverse in soft snow back to the car.

It was so cold that the dog refused to get out of the truck.  The coverage is not quite there yet so work won’t be that painful for the rest of the week.  I’m glad to have seen what’s up there and am looking forward to more snow and better coverage soon.

Take care out there.  Cruising out the access road on the South Side gives a good taste of winter but getting after it isn’t advisable… yet.

Paris at -15F?!?  Teton Pass South Side: 11.12.14
Paris at -15F?!? Teton Pass South Side: 11.12.14. Photo by Dani DeRuyter.

 

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trip Reports, Gear Reviews, Reality-Based News, and Resolutionary Views from Jackson Hole, WY.

%d bloggers like this: