Well, I can say spring break was a complete success! I got 100% caught up on my grading, which feels amazing. Jonathan and I bought a washer and a dryer, which felt incredibly adult. We painted the hall three different colors (and didn’t like any of them) and I accidentally scrubbed the varnish off the wooden cabinets in the upstairs bathroom. Whoops…but they needed refinishing anyhow. As much fun as all that was (and I’m really not even being sarcastic about that!), it was definitely not even close to the best part.
On Thursday morning, Jonathan and I packed up the car and drove to Jackson, Wyoming. It’s only a four-hour drive! We hiked a bit in Grand Teton National Park, admiring the incredible mountains in the sunshine. We could also see the famous tram at Jackson Hole, and Jonathan pointed out the couloir that so many people try and fail to ski. It’s a twenty-foot drop into a chute, and it’s completely visible from the aforementioned tram! Then we stopped in town and rented me backcountry gear.
For those of you unfamiliar, like I was about a week ago, backcountry gear uses skis that are most similar to alpine skis but are designed to be lighter. It’s the boots and the bindings that are really different. The bindings lock your toe in place like an alpine binding but allow your heel to lift so you can walk more easily. The boots have divots for the pin lock on the toe and don’t have the lip that alpine boots do. The boots also have walk mode, which allows the cuff of the boot to rotate to make walking easier. You just have to remember to lock it back to ski mode before you try to ski!
The last piece of backcountry gear is the skins. They stick to the bottom of the ski with an intense glue, and the side facing the snow is sort of fuzzy. All the hairs go one direction so you can pet it one direction and it feels smooth, but the other direction feels rough. It’s a bit like shark skin if you’ve ever had the privilege of feeling that. Skins allow you to stick to the snow as you’re walking uphill.
Actually, that wasn’t the last piece of gear we borrowed. Even though the avalanche danger was super low due to the warm winter, I absolutely carried a beacon, probe, and shovel. It was worth the twenty bucks to rent it, carry it, and not need it.
Jonathan rented us a tiny house to stay in while we were there! It was called Fireside Resort, and it was amazing!
On Friday, it was time for the grand adventure. We drove partway up Teton Pass and skied from Phillips Ridge Trailhead. I definitely had some moments of flailing as I tried to figure out how to use my new gear…
And I had some moments where I felt like I was getting better at what I was doing!
Unfortunately, this picture is taken at the moment when we took the left fork before the left fork happened. We followed some snowmobile tracks up this hill and then realized there were no more tracks!
As we curved around the side of the ridge, we found the trail near the bottom of the valley below us. We decided not to lose all our hard-won elevation by skiing back down, so we traversed across the hill through some lovely open spots and past big pines.
Well, the open spots were lovely until they made our skins all warm and wet and the colder drier snow next to the trees started sticking to the skins. This is called glomping, my friends, and it is terrible. Absolutely terrible. It can be six inches of snow along the entire ski, and it’s heavy and sticky and awful!
We crested the ridge and took the skins off our skis for a while to let them dry out and to eat a snack. We hadn’t made it very far, but we’d been working pretty hard!
We decided at this point that it would be worth it to drop back down to the trail, despite the fact that we knew we’d have to climb the ridge again. So we put our skins in our backpacks and skied down! It was only ten turns or so, and the snow was baked and crusty, and I laughed the whole way down in delight!
This is me at the bottom. I’m clearly not excited at all.
We made much better progress once we were back on the trail, and we did eventually make it to our destination of Ski Lake. There were some snowmobilers buzzing around the basin, so we skied back a little way to a knoll overlooking the whole Teton valley.
Then Jonathan gave me this. And I said yes. Approximately fifty-three times.
I could write a lot of words here, and they would all feel trite. I am deliriously, outrageously happy. I’m just going to leave it at that.
We skied back out; it is a glorious feeling to have earned your turns! We dropped off the trail back down to the highway and skied through the trees. The snow was still crusty and baked and it was still amazing.
And what better way to celebrate than with chicken tacos and a warm fire?
There are a million questions I don’t have an answer to right now about such things like, you know, weddings. And that’s ok for right now. I have a school year to finish out and a job to find and a move to make. And I’m still kind of in awe and disbelief that something so magical could happen in real life, to be totally honest.
Your homework (yes, you get homework, my students in class today did too, even after they pulled the “but you’re engaged and really happy and won’t really make us do homework, right?” card): What’s something you’ve always longed to do but haven’t been brave enough to do? I’ve watched people ski off Berthoud Pass here in Colorado my whole life, and I’d never been backcountry before.
Also, this seems like a good time to tell you to go find someone awesome and tell them you love them. Share the happiness!