Skiing in June

Thank you to Moosejaw for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.

The saddest day of the year for me is usually in mid-April when the Grand Targhee lifts stop turning for the season, signifying that ski season is over until November. But since my husband Max & I learned to backcountry ski last December, the madness of skiing all summer long has opened up. So instead of hitting the beach, I packed clothing for temperatures ranging from 30-80 degrees, my backcountry ski backpack, skis and avy gear and hit the road. Destination: the Beartooth Highway along the Wyoming/Montana border for some skiing in June.  My Moosejaw Madness story was about to begin, because I love skiing too much to only do it during one half of the year!

skiing Beartooth Basin in June 2018

First stop: Beartooth Basin summer ski area. In our excitement to ski their rope tow lift area, Max and I bought full-day lift tickets without actually looking over the edge first. After we took our first look over the cornice in the photo above, we were both thinking "oh no, we just wasted $70." It was really steep and scary looking, and we we considering bailing! 


But we spent a few minutes summoning our courage, watching others ski down and survive, and then dropped in and wound up having tons of fun skiing soft spring corn. There was a definite learning curve involved in mastering the rope tow for me, which included two consecutive fails while the line of people watching me struggle and fall shouted advice and encouragement (after which I sent myself to the back of the line). But in no time, I was picking up someone else's fallen gear on the way up, and helpfully motioning sideways to someone who fell off the tow in front of me and was laying there in my path. We ended the day really glad that we had stayed. 

bootpacking up to Reefer Ridge on the Beartooth Highway

On day two we moved to the backcountry, and began with a bootpack up to Reefer Ridge. No more rope tow pulling me up the mountain - now I was hiking it myself, carrying my backcountry ski backpack from Moosejaw filled with my avy gear and with my skis strapped on for the way up.

enjoying the view of the Beartooth Moutains

After making it to the top, I had to admire this view of the Absarokas before skiing down. (Scrambling over rocks while wearing ski boots: awkward.)

backcountry skiing down from Reefer Ridge on the Beartooth Highway

Skiing down, facing the view of the incredible winding hairpin curves of the Beartooth Highway. The snow was fun, soft corn for the top half, and chunder on the bottom half. I quickly learned why some people were stopping halfway down before starting their next lap.

bootpacking up a massive wall of snow along the Beartooth Highway

Next stop: Gardiner Headwall. The amount of snow still here in mid-June was pretty incredible! It was about twice as high as the cars driving through.

getting ready to ski Gardiner Headwall

Time to pick a line down. This area had gotten icy from below freezing temperatures overnight, but had softened up enough to be fun now. I didn't spend too long in this spot, because the wind was strong enough to almost knock me over!

skiing Gardiner Headwall

Such a fun ski down! Those tiny dots below the rocks are other skiers doing a steep bootpack back up - the fate that also awaited me at the bottom of my run. So worth the burn though! I already can't wait to go back.

 

Groomer Days

Powder days are fun, but that zipper sound that my skis make across fresh corduroy can't be beat! Sometimes the fog even lifts, and the sun pops out to reveal giant fir trees coated in impossibly thick blankets of white snow. The sky looks a pure, deep blue from up near 10,000 ft elevation, and sometimes puffy white clouds even come out to play.

Ripping down Raven Wood
Me skiing down that final steep drop on Raven Wood

Me skiing down that final steep drop on Raven Wood

Max in Chief Joseph's Bowl

Max in Chief Joseph's Bowl

A morning of clear blue skies and and the first rays of sunlight as it peeks over the mountains to warm up ghost trees.

Ripping groomers on Slim's Shot at Grand Targhee
Skiing groomers
Skiing down Slim's Shot and onto the Teton Vista Traverse
Ripping fresh groomers
Skiing groomers - Chief Joseph's Bowl at Grand Targhee
Skiing Chief Joseph's Bowl at Grand Targhee
Ripping groomers

And I love to take in the scenic views with a few fresh inches on top of the groomers and frosted white trees.

Skiing Grand Targhee
Skiing through ghost trees
Skiing through huge snowy trees

Teton Pass Closed = Powder Day at Grand Targhee

Day one of the great Teton Pass closure of 2017, which lasted 5 days in total. Teton Pass closed at 2:30am on a Tuesday for avalanche mitigation -- something that Max and I didn't realize until we arrived and found the gate down at 6:30am on our way to work in Jackson, WY.  After getting the notification that the Pass wouldn't be reopening in time to make it to work that day, we went to go skiing at Grand Targhee. Five fresh inches of wind-blown powder, some fog, and fun in the trees. This is my second season skiing off-piste powder on fat skis - and Max, as you will see, has been skiing for most of his life.

Dropping in

Dropping in

powder day skiing at Grand Targhee
powder day skiing at Grand Targhee
skiing Grand Targhee
skiing Fallen Timbers at Grand Targhee
skiing Raven Wood at Grand Targhee
powder day skiing at Grand Targhee
powder day skiing at Grand Targhee
powder day skiing at Grand Targhee
skiing Grand Targhee
skiing Raven Wood on a powder day at Grand Targhee

In the afternoon it started to snow again and things got a little more fluffy.

powder day skiing at Grand Targhee
powder day skiing at Grand Targhee
powder day skiing
powder day skiing
powder day skiing at Grand Targhee

Quick break to scrape off google crust!

scraping off google crust
powder day skiing at Grand Targhee
skiing pwoder at Grand Targhee
powder day skiing
powder day skiing

Beginner to Black Diamond

Last year was my first winter in the mountains. I live 20 minutes away from Grand Targhee, so I had to learn to ski. I started off with a group beginner lesson. I remember falling down and one of my skis getting so deeply stuck into a snow bank that another woman from my lesson kindly helped me dig it out. I was a mess, but I had fun.

Here is a really flattering moment from my second time on skis - I've got the wedge AND the upper body swing going on at once. I'm also wearing a horrific pair of hand-me-down 90's ski pants that made me look like a dump truck. I had to pull them up to my armpits under my jacket to mitigate the sag. I'm skiing the flattest green run at Grand Targhee, The North Pole, in the photo below.

Beginner skiing form on a green trail at Grand Targhee

Here I am six weeks and three more group lessons later on a blue run that was much steeper, and with more than twice as much vertical feet to the bottom of the trail. I'm stiff and my thighs are clenched in fear as I ride my skinny 142cm skis down the mountain. This photo makes me laugh now.

beginner skiing a blue run at Grand Targhee

This is me on March 30th, 2014 (oh how I miss having that much snow at this time of year!) plowing through about 8 or so inches of powder, still on my skinny 142cm skis. I realize now why those skis were not helping me out much in these conditions. I had fun, though! And I bought a new pair of ski pants on the mountain that day, after all that falling snow soaked through my old pants so badly that I'd had enough. Good riddance to them!

Powder day at Grand Targhee

This was me in April 2014, and where I left off technique-wise last season. I was getting better, learning to get on my edges, but I still hadn't figured out what to do with my arms or upper body yet.

Learning to ski at Grand Targhee Resort, Wyoming

This was me near the beginning of this ski season, in December 2014.  I have a fatter set of skis in 159 length this season, and I'm starting to lose my fear of steepness and speed. This was the first time I went down Wild Turkey at Grand Targhee without being terrified. 

Skiing Wild Turkey at Grand Targhee

I started to think I was getting pretty good this year, but I still hadn't put all of the pieces together yet. But when I would ask my husband Max (who served as my ski instructor after the initial beginner lessons) if I was getting better, he would always respond with, "NO. Still looks the same." I had him take all of these photos of me along my journey, as well as many videos, so that I could try to figure out what I was doing wrong and how to fix it. I was so determined not to get another "NO" answer to my "Am I doing better this week?" question!

Finally, in early February of this year, I had a breakthrough moment. As I rode the lift up the mountain, I was watching the racing school skiers go down, and I realized that I needed to set my arms free. Until that time, I had been concentrating so hard on keeping my hands in front of me that I didn't realize that it was okay to unclench my arms from my sides in order to make room for my body to move through my turns. And then the next run down the mountain, I got it. Even Max agreed!

After another few weeks of working on my technique, I started skiing black diamond trails. And skiing them really fast, feeling completely in control!  This is me now. A year ago, it was hard to imagine getting to this place.

Photo by Powder Day Photography.

Photo by Powder Day Photography.