We took a couple rest days waiting for the massive storm system to arrive. The National Weather Service posted a Winter Storm Watch four days running. A powder pig’s dream.
Overnight, Jackson got 10″ and Targhee got 9″. The avalanche report predicted high wind, 12-18″ of new snow, and high avalanche danger.
We decided to play it safe and lazy and go into Mail Cabin starting at 9am. We usually start around 7 or 7:30, but we thought we’d let someone else break the trail. Strangely, the Coal Creek parking lot was almost empty. We had to break trail. That’s a rare occurrence these days.
We walked slowly and fiddled around hoping some enthusiastic youngsters would overtake us, but no luck. Finally a couple of mature Forest Service guys caught up with us. We gladly let them take the lead.
After that, we teamed up with the Forest Service and took turns to the top of the West Fork. Where the hell did all the snow come from? At the trail head, we were breaking 4-6″ of new snow. At the mid level in the West Fork there was more than a foot. At the top there was 18-20″ of new snow. Our up track looked like a trench.
Based on the avalanche report, I figured the lower elevations would have 5-8 inches. As a result, I had planned to ski some low angle terrain. But the new snow was so deep, we needed something at least 35 degrees just to get moving.
We tried a west facing slope. The wind was howling, and the snow was quickly deteriorating. After one run I decided to try a steeper east facing slope. The snow was much softer and deeper.
I wanted something steeper: In Your Face bowl. I was a little worried about avalanche danger, but the snow seemed very stable. I did a couple hard ski cuts to see if I could get it to go. Nothing moved so I jumped in. After a couple of turns in light, knee deep snow, I knew we were in for a treat. After about 6 turns, a grouse burst out of the snow right in front of me. He was probably as scared as I was. If you look closely in the video, you can see a second grouse bust out of the snow as my partner skis down.
We cut over to Back Door bowl. It was not quite as good — you could just feel the crust — but skied like a dream.