Sliding down the side of a frozen island floating above an emerald sea, speed increases, vision tunnels and you drop your knee pressing edges into a tender layer of mountain velvet. A cascade of corn snow flows toward the abyss with every turn, as a laser beam of sunlight blasts through the clouds and into your eye. Your pupils adjust just in time to pick ‘em up over the lightly peppered crux. A few fast turns on the curve of the apron and the snap of a Hi-five from the crew below solidifies the grin splayed across your face. Suddenly you realize this isn’t a vision from last night’s dream, this is the summer 2017 re-opening weekend at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort!
The weekend started off perfectly with a beautiful mix of sunshine and clouds floating over Rendezvous Mountain. A vast variety of summer activities await visitors to Teton Village, but the crowning jewel of the resort, the Grand Poohbah if you will, is the Aerial Tram. As the 9 o’clock hour approached a diverse group of mountain lovers descended upon the loading dock where wide eyed tourists from Korea and Kansas intermingle with die hard locals, Olympic champions, paragliders and societal drop-outs. The contrasts seem obvious but feel far from awkward as a cloud of casual comradery wafts through the crowd. From the large quantity of gear entering the Tram it becomes apparent that while most of the nation may be thinking tan lines, many in the Hole are still thinking ski lines.
Rising above the valley floor, the vibrant green hues of the intense springtime bloom quickly give way to deep deposits of winter snow. Thanks to over 600” of snowfall during the winter innumerable ski options awaited the anxious skiers. Gazing out the Tram window like kids at the world’s largest candy store, we ascended the mountain and the collective stoke began to flare. At the summit the crowd disperses, immediately gobbled up by the immensity of the Tetons. Alpine adventurers wasted no time laying down turns on classic Jackson lines. Crowd pleasers like Pucker Face, Four Shadows, Once is Enough and Twice is Nice were too enticing for the ambitious ski freaks to ignore. Paragliders soared out over Cajun Couloir as flat land tourists munched warm waffles on the cabin deck and gawked at those who dared challenge the steepest slopes.
With the crystal vapor trail from last winter’s epic storms just beginning to settle in everyone’s minds, the reopening of the Tram was like an 88mph trip in Marty’s Delorean to an epic season that will be reminisced about for decades. As I took my final run through Spacewalk I marveled at the deep base that continued to bury the rock that usually creates a mandatory mid-winter air. Continuing down Rock Springs Canyon I flashed a goofy smile in Benny’s direction as we wiggled through the forest and made our way to the gully separating the ski resort and the National Forest. A dwindling bobsled style slope brought us all the way to the Union Pass Traverse. From there the journey culminated with a short walk to Teton Village. As we passed blazing wildflowers, mountain bikers and flying Frisbees a curious sense of contentment came over me as I realized I could put the skis away for the summer……… but I don’t have to.
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