Teton Pass WY Backcountry Skiing for Beginners
About 25 miles to the west of Jackson lies the Teton Pass, a vital commuting route between the towns of Jackson and Teton Valley, ID. Teton Pass is also a well known, almost legendary, playground for backcountry skiers and riders.
The area provides what is arguably one of the most convenient backcountry ski areas in the country, with great lines, tons of fun, and endless exploring available to both the North and South side of the pass.
Backcountry users can park at the top parking lot, or along Old Pass Road and hitchhike up Highway 22. Many choose to park back at Stagecoach Bar in nearby Wilson and carpool up.
It is EXTREMELY important to note that Teton Pass, while very popular and even crowded, is very much in avalanche risk terrain. Groupthink and less experienced backcountry users simply following the lead of others can be dangerous.
You MUST have proper avalanche education, safety equipment, and have done an evaluation of conditions both before going and on site.
View conditions, forecasts, an advisory levels at http://jhavalanche.org/
With that being said, with proper precautions and common sense, Teton Pass can provide endless opportunities for backcountry skiers and snowboarders. Here are some of the frequented and popular lines off the Pass that users unfamiliar with the area should know.
North Side of Teton Pass
Mt Glory Bowl
Mt.Glory is the most popular destination in the Teton Pass area. It can be seen from the bottom of the pass and quite frankly is a rather obvious and really nice looking line that just beckons to be skied.
A 45 minute to 1 hour bootpack up Mt.Glory gives you almost 2,000 feet of vertical on a wide open bowl to ski down. There are a variety of lines to choose from, thought the lines toward the west/southwest provides some of the more straightforward and easier terrain.
Lines like 1st Turn and 2nd Turn shoot you out toward the corresponding turns on the other side of Highway 22, and require just a short walk back to your starting point. These are great for easy and lappable lines when getting your bearings on the pass.
South Side of Teton Pass
The south side of the pass is often ignored for the more “glorious” terrain on the north side. However, despite the easier access and the popularity amongst more unseasoned skiers, the options can still make for a fun day. This is the definition of stop-and-go backcountry skiing. At the top of the pass, easy and direct routes get you to several lines to ski. Most funnel back to Old Pass Rd where you can hitchhike backup for additional laps.
Avalanche Bowl is a super easy 25 minute skin straight south of the parking lot. Avy Bowl is a wide open, fun run that you can either lap with only 400-500 vertical per lap or take all the way to where it spits you out at Old Pass road where you can hitch a ride back up to the top.
However, as the name implies. This bowl can be a dangerous terrain trap and is prone to slides.
You may be tempted to drop into any of the numerous runs on the way to Avy Bowl – Chivers Ridge, Titty Mouse, or Oympic Bowl to name a few. While Avy Bowl is further and you don’t necessarily gain any length or steepness by going the extra distance, it may provide you fresher tracks than the others.
Edelweiss is the star of the show on the south side of the pass. It is arguably just as popular or more so than Mt.Glory, especially in the earlier part of the season because it is grassier and you don’t need to worry about rocks as much as lines off the north side.
The easiest way to get to Edelweiss is by skiing down Powder Reserves basically directly off the parking lot. After skiing to the bottom of Powder Reserves, you will be at the bottom of Edelweiss to the south. About 1,000 feet worth of ascent, and you will be ready to tackle this large, open, semi-north facing bowl. When finished, skin back up your initial descent and back up to the service road out to the parking lot.
Edelweiss is ultimately a really good place to take people just getting into the backcountry.
For those who want to dive deeper into the many routes and adventures you can have on Teton Pass, this Guidebook to Teton Pass backcountry skiing is a really cool resource. It has tons of images and ski photos of the areas, along with detailed route overlays. It can really help newcomers to the area get a solid bearing on the options and layout available on Teton Pass.
You can also find some route info over at Powder Project, though they currently only list a handful of the possible routes and lines.
As always, practice safety techniques and with your emergency equipment when going into the backcountry. Listen and heed to signs or warnings regarding avalanche terrain. Teton Pass can be a dangerous place if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Above all else, have fun and happy skiing!