Photo: Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce
Photo: Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce

Deep powder in the Tetons

Heading for the Rockies this winter for a deep-powder skiing adventure? Consider the Tetons in Wyoming, with their 500 inches of dry, pristine powder and breathtaking alpenglow sunrises and sunsets.
“There is really no more exciting way to experience our backcountry than actually living out here,” says Jeff Jung who, with his wife Diane Verna, has run an outfitting operation called Teton Backcountry Guides since 1986. They host outdoor enthusiasts year-round, helping visitors explore the west slopes of one of the world’s most spectacular mountain ranges.
Their wintertime downhill program features a custom hut-to-hut backcountry ski and snowboard tour through wilderness. After an exhilarating day of exploring untracked powder, visitors don’t have to cut the experience short and make the arduous trip out; instead, they return to the warmth of one of three strategically placed yurts. The yurts are 20 feet in diameter and sit on wooden platforms. Each has sleeping bunks with pads for eight persons, a wood-burning stove and propane lanterns. There’s also a kitchen with a two-burner propane stove for cooking, but all meals are provided.
The yurts are approximately four miles into the mountains with elevation gains between 1,800 and 2,200 feet. Skiers can expect three to five hours of easy to moderately strenuous hiking in the approach. The highest yurt at Baldy Knoll is at an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet. Skiers should be in good physical shape and should have a minimum of intermediate ski-touring skills for safety and to fully enjoy the experience.
Jeff Jung’s favorite trip involves spending six days skiing the Teton backcountry based out of both Baldy Knoll and Plummer Canyon yurts. “First, you ski in to the Plummer yurt and have two days to explore,” he says. “On day three, you travel five and a half miles with 2,200 feet of elevation gain and loss to the Baldy Knoll yurt. Porters carry in your food and supplies—you travel with a light daypack from hut to hut. You then have three days to explore the great terrain at Baldy before the fun ski descent back to the valley floor.”


YURT, YURT ON THE RANGE…
The word yurt—which means home—is derived from the Turkic language; in Mongolia it’s called a ger. For thousands of years, nomadic shepherds in the steppes of Central Asia have lived in these portable houses—essentially large, round tents supported by a light, latticework bent wooden-pole frame with a conical roof. Mats of felt woven from sheep’s wool are stretched over this frame, making the structure nearly impervious to fierce weather.
In 1978 an Oregon company called Pacific Yurts began developing a modern version of this ancient design using a durable fabric covering lattice walls, radial rafters and a central compression ring. Today’s yurts, which are much larger than original versions, are typically set up as semi-permanent structures for year-round camping. Some people even live in them full time. —T.P.


WHEN TO GO:
December through April, with February the most popular month. January offers cold nights and crisp days; March and April deliver the deepest powder and best turns.
WHAT TO DO:
Yostmark Backcountry Tours (yostmarktours.com,
208-354-2828) provides daily tours and instruction in backcountry skiing for the beginner, as well as advanced ­avalanche instruction for the experienced skier. Teton Backcountry Guides (tetonbackcountryguides.com, 307-353-2900) offers ski touring with overnight stays in wilderness huts or yurts.
To enjoy Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s ski lifts, consider a stay at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (888-333-7766) or Snow King Mountain Resort (307-734-3194).
WHERE TO LAND:
Private jets fly into Jackson Hole [Wyoming] Airport (JAC), which has a 6,300-foot runway. Jackson Hole Aviation, LLC (800-487-5387) provides FBO services.


Thomas R. Pero is publisher of Wild River Press and the author of two books about fly fishing.

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