Rob Kingwill, Mark Carter and Adam Dowell get it deep as Jackson Hole’s Tram opens for the season
Boom, boom, boom, went the sound of the avalanche control bombs as we awoke for the opening weekend of the upper mountain at Jackson Hole, making my heart beat a little faster and my mind wander to the glorious powder turns of last year. Standing in line with North Face rider Mark Carter, Lamar rider Adam Dowell, and DJ Rich Goodwin, we pondered with silent anticipation about how goot it was going to be up top.
A huge storm system had been slamming into Jackson for days, delivering mostly rain in the valley yet leaving us to wonder if it was really December when it felt and looked more like April. The massive amount of rain at my house made me hopeful for lots of pow in the higher elevations. For the past couple of weeks we had been forced to ride only two lifts with decent coverage. But this past Friday, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort finally opened the upper mountain – first the new Casper quad chair, then the Gondola, and then finally the Tram and the rest of the upper mountain lifts. Needless to say, the boys and I were chomping at the bit to go ride what seemed to be pretty damn good conditions.
Sorry to sound cliché, but it’s epic in Jackson Hole right now. Seriously.
We stepped off the gondy to find that the storm had deposited a considerable amount of dense, heavy snow on top of the ever present rocks and stumps to be found everywhere on the mountain, creating a Pacific Northwest style base that is rare in these parts. We were surprised to find the traverse to Casper Bowl open – it usually takes at least a couple weeks for there to be enough coverage, but there it was, open on day one. Our crew ducked into the woods immediately and shredded full speed through eight inches of light and fluffy on top of a solid base.
Since it was only December 6, I was very cautious with my turns, expecting rock damage at any moment. After the second run I pretty much threw caution to the wind and started launching full speed off everything in sight, including riding down a line in AirBowl that is hardly ever ride-able, even late season. It was on like Donkey Kong!
The next day the Tram and the rest of the mountain were scheduled to be open, and I dragged my sore ass out of bed at 6:00 AM to try and get in line for a decent start. Jackson Hole is home to the kind of nutbags that bivy up and sleep on the Tram dock all night just to get first box. So my best hope was to get on Tram box #2 or #3. With 12 inches of new fresh from the night before, there would be plenty of pow for all.
After a series of mishaps and malfunctions, including stalling out my Subaru and not being able to re-start it, switching vehicles, forgetting my snowboard in the process and then spilling a 16-ounce cup of hot coffee all over my truck, I finally made it to the mountain. The Tram line extended a long way back, so I decided to switch it up and ride the gondy for a few laps to let the line calm down.
Winds were gusting up to 70 mph at the top of the Tram causing a wind hold and avalanche control situation that lasted until 10 AM. Getting in the Gondola line ended up being the correct choice as it opened up a full hour before the Tram. I think I stacked up my karma chips with the morning malfunctions because I ended up getting the deepest untracked top to bottom Gondy runs I have ever had, followed by walking on to the third Tram of the day. Boo Ya!
I stepped out at the top of the Tram at 10,450 feet to some seriously gusty winds and zero-degree temperatures. It was definitely winter up there. Rendezvous bowl was super buffed out on the way down to Sublette chair where I spun lap after tasty lap riding some of my favorite technical lines in the Alta Chutes, a rare thing this early in December.
Needless to say, this weekend was pretty much all time. It was the best Tram opening day I’ve every experienced in over 25 years of riding here. It is snowing again as I write this, with at least another six inches overnight last night and more on the way. We’ve received more than 120 inches for the year, and it’s only going to get better. Time for me to go shred!