A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine, Rich Lambert, said it was time for a fellas trip to the Tetons. In spite of my busy schedule, I quickly jumped at the chance. We rounded out the trio with Kendall Card and headed out for a weekend of backcountry skiing in Teton National Park.
Basecamp would be Rich’s place in Victor, ID — just to the West of Teton Pass and a beautiful year-round adventure spot with fishing, camping, hiking, skiing, trail running and more around every corner.
Upon arrival, Ken and Rich poured over maps and trip reports from TetonAT.com. For only being five hours away from Salt Lake City, it’s sad that my previous Teton experience was fairly limited (two trips to Grand Targhee and one to Jackson Hole). It had been almost eight years since my last Teton trip, so yes, I was overdue and in good hands as both Ken and Rich have more combined Teton experience than many locals.
Day 1: Nez Perce Sliver Chute
At the outset, the plan was simple… head up Garnet Canyon and find something fun to ski. We arrived at the Taggart Lake Trailhead and followed the skintracks along a rib that splits Taggart and Bradley Lakes and runs towards the East face of Nez Perce. It seemed to go in the right direction and was well-placed. About an hour later, the ascent began in earnest as the line in the snow began to zigzag.
With every switchback, more and more of the heart of the Tetons came into view. One-by-one, the giants showed their faces as the weather forecast became increasingly-incorrect. Instead of snow showers, we experienced mixed clouds and sun with excellent views of the area.
The uphill slog continued and more cool features came into view, including this view of Turkey Chute that drops into Avalanche Canyon from the top of 25 Short (more on this in Day 2 below).
As the ridge we followed peaked out, we were one drainage away from The Sliver, highly-visible a bus-sized chute that graces the East face of Nez Perce. We dropped into the drainage for our first turns of the day (a few hundred feet of excellent pow), then Ken and Rich zeroed in on The Sliver. I opted to spin laps in the wide-open bowl and descend to scout our exit.
After booting up 1/3 of The Sliver (see below for bootpack with our entrance into the bowl in the background), they pulled the rip cord due to time and followed me down just as I was skinning back up to tell them the exit was perfect. A few hundred vertical feet of knee-deep settled pow and we skinned back towards our original skintrack and out a fun drainage towards Bradley Lake and onto the Taggart Lake Trailhead.
We were all pleasantly surprised at both the weather and the terrain from our inaugural tour. Of course, Ken and Rich were supremely bummed not to have had time to ascend the entire chute. But, it certainly leaves unfinished business for another trip.
Day 2: 25 Short
Feeling comfortable with the area, the next day we decided to head to the Northeast-facing tree shots off 25 Short, just South of Avalanche Canyon. Once again, the approach was at least an hour before ascending in earnest, but the skintrack didn’t mess around as we ascended quickly to the 25 Short ridgeline.
The weather was cloudy and began snowing just as we started our ascent. The perfect Christmas snow quickly turned into a Teton-esque solid snowfall that quietly filled the skintrack. As we reached the summit, the intent was to somehow poke our way into Turkey Chute and on into Avalanche Canyon. After dancing around the top of the chute, we quickly realized that even though the entrance isn’t that abrupt, it’s rocky and icy with little room for error for about 100 feet. So, we happily opted for the wide-open blower pow off 25 Short.
After dropping 1800 feet of knee-deep blower, Kendall set in a steep skintrack for another round before the avie conditions got out of hand. Round 2 was nearly 3000 vertical feet of over-the-head blower to boot-deep cream before the slog back to the parking lot. We will all relish these turns forever.