Switching from a Swift. Silent. Deep. – Jackson Hole Air Force style mentality (The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Jackson Hole Air Force..) to the style of a skier who publicly wrote about and photographed his ski descents and adventures took a large number of years. In the meantime, I sometimes wondered ‘Why blog about backcountry skiing in Utah or anywhere else?’
It wasn’t a consideration I took lightly. Trumpeting one’s backcountry ski descents seems incongruous to me; the descents should speak for themselves. I’ve historically been pretty low-key about things I’ve accomplished. Creating my personal history has gone that way. But history is the record of deeds that have been done. If I didn’t document the skiing, it seemed that no history would really exist. As the snow melted or the winds blew, the ski tracks would disappear just as surely as memories become fuzzy. This (primarily but not exclusively) backcountry ski oriented blog is an attempt to demonstrate my acceptance that I don’t live in a vacuum. I’m interested in what challenging ski routes other people have managed; it seemed that others would be interested in the limits I’ve pushed, and the gear I used to get it done.
The skiing itself hasn’t changed much; I’m continually pushing my own limits. It’s the sharing aspect that’s new. To that end, I’ve done the majority of my ski descents without bringing a camera along. Unfortunately, those descents are only in my, and my partners’, memories. Perhaps I’ll do some picture-less posts sometime. Otherwise, I’ll keep plunging forward, camera in hand, having left behind the ‘Silent.’ aspect of the J.H.A.F. Swift. Silent. Deep. motto.
Of my backcountry skiing descents for which a camera was present, these are some of my favorites – some were in Utah, some in Wyoming. I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed skiing them!
Chouinard Couloir – Middle Teton, Teton Range, Wyoming: Named after the famed Yvon Chouinard, I’d eyed this couloir ever since my foray down the Ellingwood Couloir. Narrow in spots and steep, with an aesthetic view of the Southern end of the Teton Range’s Cathedral Group Peaks, it’s everything your parents suggest you not to ski.
Ford Couloir – Grand Teton, Teton Range, Wyoming: It’s more technical getting to the Ford Couloir than to some other descents, but once you arrive, you feel pretty special. Although the Grand Teton is skied regularly now, this South facing descent is still a large endeavor, and generally not crowded. It’s not the steepest of ski descents, but the exposures are about as large as you’ll find anywhere. The Ford, Chevy, Stettner route has yet to be skied in its entirety without either a downclimb or a rappel along the way.
Rampage – Unnamed Peak, Wasatch Range, Utah: The exposures on this ramp carved into the side of a cliff aren’t as enormous as on the Grand Teton, but if you blow a turn and sail off the edge, your capability to create memories will be finished. In shade for much of the winter due to its position, the snow here can be perfect powder when other powder has developed a crust. Unfortunately, it can also develop strange, windloaded layers that don’t exist elsewhere. Digging a snow pit is recommended!
Heart of Darkness – Ridge North of Monte Cristo, Wasatch Range, Utah: As you top out on what people call Superior, the Heart of Darkness comes into view towards the West. It’s actually heart shaped on the Eastern side. This all changes when you peer down the West facing ski descent. Tighter than the seal on a packet of peanuts, steep, and either a burly downclimb or a rappel entrance keep this one from getting moguls. You’ll have to chop a ledge to put on your skis, too.
God’s Lawnmower – Kessler Peak, Wasatch Range, Utah: Due to its North aspect, shape, and shading, the snow in the lower sections of the Lawnmower can be sublime; on the upper reaches it can be a hard-to-manage, eviscerating mess. Right off the BCC road, access couldn’t be easier.