If you like snow, Jackson has always been a safe bet. And in October, right on cue, a huge snowstorm dropped over a foot of powder on the upper regions of the Teton range. People were already skinning up nearby Targhee in September. The stage was set for one of the best winter seasons ever.
And then, the unthinkable. It just kept happening.
Or, more accurately, not happening. There were zero recorded inches of precipitation in November. The resorts couldn’t run snow makers because it was too warm. Our prayers for snow had fallen on deaf ears. Might be nice for late-season mountain bikers, but it’s not what I moved here for.
Thanks to a phenomenon called global warming, the el NiÃ±o weather that was expected to ruin the Northwest’s winter magically caused every ski area around Western Washington (where I moved here from) to open weeks earlier than expected. I sat helplessly and watched mid-November opening day coverage for Baker, Stevens Pass, Crystal Mountain — the lot. And here I am in Wyoming, it’s the first of December, and the butt of all jokes — Snow King Resort — might actually have more coverage than Jackson Hole.
Freshies! Photo: Amy Galbraith
On November 28, the first chair finally climbed over the glistening slopes of ice to the top of the Teewinot lift at JHMR. Beneath it, one depressing snake of man-made slithered up the hill to meet the chairlift. The situation on the next lift becomes even more grim — the Apres-Vous chair swoops over the sun-baked, snowless brush below, where wildlife continues to graze, un-bothered. Some advice for those who might be tempted: don’t come to Jackson, at least not yet.
One thing it helps me to remember is that Jackson gets most of its snowfall in December, January and February. In reality, the sad-looking thread of death ice winding its way up JHMR right now is exactly what opening day always looks like; it pretty much always sucks. While that’s not really anything to celebrate, at least we know that by Christmas this place will look totally different. Until then…