By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
The powder craze is on at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, where skiers have been surprised with 21 inches of snow in the last 24 hours. It’s lighting up their eyes like an early Christmas gift.
“It’s deep, and it’s good,” Gideon Yendell told Cowboy State Daily. “But it’s also shallow, so be careful.”
Yendell was born in Red Lodge, Montana, and has spent the past three years snowboarding in Big Sky.
“I was like, I gotta come here to, like, push it to the next level,” Yendell said.
To get to the resort Friday, he hitchhiked, and he has no regrets. The day of skiing, with such deep snow, was “pretty sweet,” he said.
“I’m very grateful, very stoked,” he said. “It was nice to see young people out and old people out and everyone’s just having a blast.”
Already In Midseason Form
In fact, the snow has been so good this year, skiers told Cowboy State Daily it feels like midseason snow right now, even though the mountain resort only opened right after Thanksgiving.
“We’re really excited to be opening the Aerial Tram tomorrow,” Jackson Hole Mountain Resort spokesman Eric Seymour told Cowboy State Daily. “This is the earliest we’ve opened the tram in the last decade.
“We already have 142 inches of snow, with 21 inches falling just in the last 24 hours. So, it’s just an incredible start to the season with snowfall.”
Ski Patrol Hustles
So much snow falling so fast is a wonderful thing to have so early in the season, but it also means more work for the ski patrol members who go out to control the slopes and make sure the risk of avalanche remains low.
To do that, explosives are used to move the snow ahead of someone skiing through it, Vice President of Marketing Andrew Way told Cowboy State Daily.
Each night, at least one member of the patrol spends the night at Corbet’s Cabin at the top of the mountain. In the morning, bombs will be made early in the morning. The charges are a bit like firecrackers, but much larger and much more dangerous.
They are thrown strategically into areas that could be dangerous to make sure there’s no loose snow out there to create nasty surprises.
Technology manufactured by Gazex also is being used at the resort as a remote avalanche control system. Exploder tubes have been placed in key risk zones and connected to gas storage tanks that have enough capacity to operate throughout the season without refilling.
They produce a shockwave that pushes snow, without the need for personnel to handle dangerous explosives.
Old technology is still being used as well, including a few howitzers used in places like Teton Pass.
36 Hours Straight
Way said crews have worked the last 36 hours straight keeping up with the fresh snow and the early opening of trams.
Way, meanwhile, also is among those who has been out skiing the freshly fallen snow, catching the powder fever.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It feels like late January, early February.”
Way said people have suggested he try biking or running, but he prefers skiing. Going so fast in such hazardous terrain requires intense concentration, while running or biking still allows him to think too much. After skiing several thousand feet to the bottom, all the stress is gone.
“It’s like you get a brain and spirit massage,” he said. “It’s amazing.”