Skiing the Idaho Backcountry

Free-Heeling in Fresh Powder
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Several Mondays ago, dawn arrived in Wyoming's Teton Range with no more pomp and circumstance than on any other mid-March day. I had already been up for an hour or two and found myself descending Teton Pass into Idaho on Highway 22 with nothing more for company than some chamomile tea, the greatest hits of the Eurthymics, and a bladder that desperately wanted to make a pit stop.

I was headed in the general direction of West Yellowstone, Montana, searching for a mountain. A month prior, while driving back from a weekend of frosty fun at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge in Yellowstone National Park, the mountains outside Island Park, Idaho, caught my attention. I did not know the name of the range. I did not know anyone who had skied or traveled in it. I did not know whether it was national forest, wilderness, or belonged to various ranchers who strongly believed in the idea of private property and thought gun control meant hitting their target. I did know that these mysterious hills, 80 miles from my home in Jackson, Wyoming, intrigued me.

Looking out from the passenger window, I could see some bowls, obvious avalanche paths, and couloirs but knew nothing about their pitch, history, or snow pack. Granted, I was looking at the mountains from a distance of several miles, but even on the smoothest slope I could not see a single track.

I decided I would find more out about the area, kidnap a partner and return in a few weeks.

So, here I was, a few weeks later, trying to coax my under-powered Toyota past monster, trailer-toting trucks headed back to West Yellowstone . . . still without a partner and knowing not so much as the name of the mountains I was looking to for a day of great skiing.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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