Skiing the Idaho Backcountry

Laughing All the Way Home
Page 5 of 5   |  

Although I had checked the mid-mountain out through binoculars, I wanted to give it a once over from above—one of the first backcountry ski lessons I learned was that all chutes are not created equal. I came to a stop directly above the entrance to the right-most chute and peered down. It didn't look that bad. It wasn't nearly as steep as the upper half of the mountain, but the trees as the bottom were pretty dense. A hundred meters or so to the left lay option B—rock on both sides kept it narrow from top to bottom. This one looked a bit more interesting; it would provide a true test of how tight I could make my turns.

Rock or trees? Despite my little stumble, I was still feeling confident—rock it was. One hundred meters later I looked up at the tightest turns I had ever done in snow that was getting a bit heavier, but still as smooth as Ben & Jerry's "World's Best Vanilla." At the bottom, I traversed left to see my options for the next run. The one just before the west ridge looked wonderful. A cliff on skier's left ensured I would try to stay as right as possible in the chute. Otherwise, there was nothing to be wary of.

By the end of the day, there were tracks all over the face—and they were all mine. At each run I stopped several hundred feet after the chutes, re-skinned, stripped down, and started back up. I knew the fourth time up would be my last—my legs, my lungs, my arms, my little toe, the hair follicles on my head, all were crying out for mercy. My legs were screaming. No amount of ski fitness aerobics or stairmastering can prepare muscles for such torture.

Since I was familiar with each of my mid-mountain options at this point, I decided I was going to do top to bottom in one swoop. It took me 90 minutes to skin up from mid-mountain to the top the last time. Forty minutes after my arrival at the top I was back at the Piglet, my trustworthy but squeaky Toyota.

First, second, third, fourth and fifth tracks . . . and a possible first descent to boot. Not a bad day.

I was not driving over the top of Teton Pass until well after sunset, but I swear I could make out hundreds and hundreds of tracks covering every aspect. I have no doubt my laughter resounded all the way down to Jackson.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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