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Hundred Days 027

Riding in the Storm



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Day 027: 01/22/12 – Riding in the Storm

Written by: Stephen Williams

Photography by: Jake Johnston

“Bluebird days, the dream of every skier and snowboarder.” Well almost every skier and snowboarder. Sunny skies, calm winds and crystal clear visibility? Nah, that’s just not for me. When I am heading out to snowboard, I want snowfall. I’m ready for gusting winds and I expect to be cold sitting on the lift. After working outside in Jackson Hole for five winters, I’ve learned to tolerate the elements, and also accumulated the adequate gear to withstand them. Workers gloves, fog-prone goggles, and flimsy base layers just do not cut it out here. For me, snowboarding is a sport that embraces bad weather, and being exposed to this weather in the mountains is what draws me to it.

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Now, I’m not trying to be a tough guy. There have been plenty of days snowboarding in Jackson Hole that I have turned around at the top of the pass because of blustering winds, taken shelter in Nick’s after feeling the first stages of frostbite on my cheeks, or just straight up called it quits at Grand Targhee because I couldn’t see a thing past my fingertips. Winter weather in Wyoming is no joke; its severe, unpredictable and downright f*cking freezing sometimes. It is hard to imagine how early settlers in the Valley were able to survive winter storms like the one pummeling us at the moment, or why they decided to stay through the summer just to do it all over again next season.

This last Saturday at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was my kind of day: Storm riding at its finest. Snow continually fell from the time we boarded a Tram at 8:45, until the time we finally gave into burning legs in the afternoon. Winds whipped at the top of the Bowl as we waited for the light to turn green. As we descended below the exposed massif of Rendezvous Mountain, those gusts turned to a cool Wyoming breeze. Visibility allowed just enough planning for the first three turns down the rocky top of Alta 2 chute, but just enough mystery to keep me constantly on my toes for what awaited me at the bottom. Short lines at the Sublette chair barely gave us enough time to catch our breath before loading, and the lift was just long enough for snow to accumulate on outerwear and give us a slight chill by the top. The sun stayed away, keeping the snow on the upper mountain dry and soft throughout the day, and tracks were consistently refilled by the accumulating snowfall.

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Screw google tans. Give me a beard caked with ice and snow. Forget about warm, cozy lift rides; vacation at the beach in Mexico if you can’t take the cold. Dry gear at the end of the day? Pfffft, I prefer a puddle of melted snow under my barstool at the Moose. And as for bluebird powder days, let California and Colorado keep them. This is Wyoming. This is why I live here.


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