• open panel

Hundred Days



The Mountain Pulse Jackson Hole Skiing Snowboarding


As we met the first pitch of the boot pack to Cody, a torrent of wind poured over the ridgeline with ruthless indifference. “It’s blowing about 50 mph on Rendezvous Bowl,” said the Tram operator as we exited a few minutes earlier. Now on this unprotected ridge in the back country, I wondered how hard it was blowing. More distressingly, I wondered if this was a good idea.

The first section on the boot pack is an exposed rock latter, The Hillary’s Step of Cody Peak if there ever was one. Gripped to the rock on all fours, I methodically climbed, trying not to notice the catastrophic injury or death that lay waiting on each side if to fall. Strapped to my back, my skis acted as a half deployed parachute, jarring me violently in the wind. With each passing gust, a cacophony of fear played over my mind and numbed my senses. Though exerting myself, I did not have the faculties to register the normal pains in my lungs or legs. All that existed was a voice commanding: “Do not fall. Do not fall.”

 Sacking that first pitch, we collected in a partially protected grove of pine trees. Few words were exchanged, just the occasional groan to an onslaught of wind. Looking ahead to the staircase that led to the top, we watched the wind scour rocks and polish cornices. While I tried to think of it technically as air passing from pressure systems, it was hard not to personify the meteorological forces at hand in some mythical way. In this profound setting so removed from everything, the wind was a juggernaut careening over the earth, trying to thwart our push to the top. And though not on some heroic quest, there was a potent sense that we were on a mission.

We reached the top unceremoniously, our minds fixed upon quickly scouting our lines down No Shadows and drawing up a plan of attack. Inflamed by our successful arrival, the wind descended upon us ferociously. I slung my backpack to the ground, and carefully removed my skis. Clipping in, the emotions of the experience culminated and hit their crescendo. “It’s time to do this,” I whispered into the wind. We each sidestepped to the edge, and with “eyes-on,” dropped in one at a time. After watching Kevin and Steve, it was my turn. I clinked poles with Jake, and pushed off over the cornice.


 Total, complete silence consumed me. I passed into another realm, from foreign to familiar. Though having never been there, this was a place I knew well: making turns on snow. All the angst on the long ascent dissolved in the first moment of descent.

When first moving to Jackson, I remember being baffled by the tracks on Cody. Each struck me as the signature into a fraternity by some phantom skier or rider. At the time, making those tracks was off my radar, existing only as a source of wonderment. Sinking into that snow today, scribing my name next to those of my closest friends, I sensed a chapter of my own life being written.


One Response to “02/13/11”

  1. My grandfather David would often say, “this puts me in mind of”, and then he would promptly careen off into a tale. Z’s account of Cody Peak puts me in mind of the first time I encountered Corbet’s Couloir.
    Early eighties, I had never skied “out west”, and was not accustomed to what any normal westerner would think of as snow.
    There’s ice, and then there’s snow. You could say I was weened on a little snow, and a lot of ice.

    My entire stay that first visit to Jackson could be described as nothing short of overwhelming.
    First, the presence of snow, not ice, made me have to reinvent my entire ski career from age 12 forward.
    Add to that being taken to Paintbrush, Toilet Bowl, Bird in the Hand. Not your easiest first western skiing.
    When I finally was presented with Corbet’s, I completely knuckled.
    Z’s account of his experience at Cody gave me a shiver, and at once a warm glow.

    I probably could have survived Corbet’s.

    In hindsight, I suspect I had more skill than I gave myself credit for having. But what I lacked was the indescribable that has been so beautifully described here in Z’s piece.
    Fear, presence of mind, caution, but the ability for forward motion in the face of fear. Motion to move, motion to live. Fully.

    Years later, I did have a chance to relive, and ultimately reinvent the missed opportunity that day in the eighties on the precipice of Corbet’s.

    Snowbasin Utah, blizzard conditions, nearly a total white out, standing on a precipice vaguely similar to Corbet’s with the wind swirling a torrent of snow all around me,. I felt the peril, quite fully, but also knew somewhere very deeply that I possess the skill. I could do it. I could be one with the sense of danger, and, the sense of exhilaration.
    I was on the razors edge of life, where both worlds can be known and embraced, without paralyzing fear.

    I did prevail, and was forever changed.
    Bravo Z!

    • David Winner
Powered By DynamiX