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Rising out of the Wyoming prairie like a craggy 13,770-foot tomahawk, the Grand Teton looms over Jackson Hole and the dreams of ski alpinists around the globe. The classic Ford-Stettner route delivers a 7,000-vertical-foot descent loaded with 45- to 60-degree couloirs, mandatory rappels, and tons of fall-and-die zones. With 80 years of experience and a staff flush with some of the world’s most accomplished mountaineers, Exum Mountain Guides can assist you on your conquest. Spend the night at their camp on the lower saddle before launching your predawn summit push. Come sunrise, enjoy insane 360-degree views from the top, and then strike a line that should be a notch on every winter warrior’s belt. —Kelley McMillan
Exum Mountain Guides
The first thing you’ll notice about Cooke City, Montana, population 77, is the isolation. The second, the cacophony of alcohol-injected snowmobiles, diesel trucks, and pudgy Midwesterners saying stuff like “Daaammnn, nice can.” But nowadays there are skis strapped to many of the snowmobiles in town. Backcountry skiers differ little from slednecks when it comes to terrain selection, and Cooke City might have the steepest and deepest in the Lower 48. Mountains cut off this hamlet in the winter, so getting there is a hopscotch adventure along the Montana–Wyoming border through Yellowstone Park. The skiing’s killer all season, but it’s most entertaining in late April during the Sweet Corn Festival, when whiskey and chew can negotiate a tow to any elevation. I won’t even mention the nighttime festivities. You can venture a guess. —Kevin Luby
Soda Butte Lodge, Tavern & Casino
Miners Saloon, Casino & Emporium [406-838-2214]
Cooke City Exxon
To travel from Blackcomb to Whistler without leaving the alpine, you’ve got two options: the 11-minute Peak-to-Peak gondola across the Fitzsimmons Valley, which separates the two ski areas, or the slightly longer route via the 20-plus-mile, horseshoe-shaped Spearhead Traverse. Spandex-clad fast-and-light freaks can complete the Spearhead in less than a day, but wise groups do it in three and along the way pick off dozens of jewels with names like Pattison, Tremor, Shudder, Quiver, Overlord, and Fissile, pioneered by Canadian freeskiing legends Trevor Peterson, Eric Pehota, and others in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
“You start in the dirt and you end in the dirt.” That’s what local Glen Plake says about spring touring in the Sierra Nevada, and it’s true. The high-mountain snowfields of southern California aren’t easy to get to; you have to hike through jungles of manzanita bushes before you hit snow. But once you do, a winter’s worth of precip in a freeze-thaw cycle means stable couloirs, creamed corn, and access to innumerable high-angle lines. There’s a reason why mountaineers like Doug Coombs and Kip Garre cut their teeth on chutes like the Wahoo Gullies and the Checkered Demon, and why seasoned old dudes like Plake spend their springs camped out in the Sierra. —Heather Hansman
Sierra Mountain Center Guiding [sierramountaincenter.com]
When there’s 24 inches of fresh outside and it’s still nuking at CS Irwin Cat-Skiing, you shouldn’t apologize for enjoying a plush snowcat cabin, Wagner powder-ski demos, and fresh banana bread in the morning. And you should revel without guilt in lunches of chicken parmesan, on-hand cocoa and schnapps, and available wi-fi. Because, with Irwin operating in a rare orographic snow magnet that attracts twice the precipitation of neighboring Crested Butte, the only luxury you’ll talk about at the end of the day as you ride home in the limousine-like, stripper-pole-outfitted cabin of the Tucker snowcat is, of course, the snow. —Jason Blevins
The Wasatch isn’t the only place you’ll find deep snow and aesthetic lines in Utah. Moab’s La Sal Mountains offer up some of the best and least-known terrain in the state. Midwinter, skin for trees and open bowls in Gold Basin from an easy-to-access Forest Service trailhead, or utilize the La Sal hut system for longer missions. In spring, the skiing goes off in tight couloirs and on creamy snowfields off cathedral peaks like 12,482-foot Mount Tukuhnivatz. But be careful, the snowpack changes with the whims of the desert winds that buffet these summits. With perfect corn, the La Sals will deliver the best runs of your life, but the snow quality can be fickle due to dust layers or the onset of an early summer. —Doug Schnitzspahn
Utah Avalanche Center
Step one: Hello. That woman of experience didn’t wear her lowest-cut blouse and tallest heels for you to stare like a buster from across the bar. Sit down and buy her a drink, even if you’re broke. Step two: Impress. Karaoke and a lyrical knowledge of the ’80s will help you touch her inner small-town girl. Dancing can work too. She wants to party, which is why she’s talking to you, a dirty ski bum. Your youthful lifestyle provides a drastic departure from her bow-tie-wearing ex-husband. Step three: Commit. Cougars don’t appreciate games. One whiff of trepidation or insincerity and she’ll vanish. Give this sultry lady some respect and you’re in for the night of your dirtbag life. —K.L.
Sun Valley, Idaho
The Living Room in The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado
Buffalo Bills, Whistler,
It’s possible that I have a mouth-writing-checks-my-ass-can’t-cash problem. I think that’s how I came to be bibbed up with my tips hanging over the edge of an avy-chundered venue of a big-mountain competition in Italy while some guy yelled vowel-y words in my ear. Cheap heli time is one of the many charms of Europe, so there’s excellent aerial video footage of me taking an extended breather in the middle of my comp run. And making wedge turns. But that’s the appeal of adventure, right? It’s the anxiety, embarrassment, and gut-punch fear mixed with a side of near-sexual relief once it’s over. Sign me up again next year. I’ll totally win. —Heather Hansman
Telemark & Freeride Week
You’ve got a job and a family and can’t ski as much as you’d like anymore. Boohoo. Stop bitching and embrace the time-honored tradition of dawn patrol. The practice is easy—find a reliable partner and a good headlamp. Pack your gear and strap your skins on the night before. Set the coffeemaker to autopilot. Keep a change of clothes and toothbrush at the office. Efficiency is king. And you’ve got to balance the drive time with your need for powder. Looking for a workout and a few turns? Find a local uphill-friendly resort. If it’s pre-work face shots, a bit more thought into trailhead access versus snow quality is necessary. Get some sleep. Morning turns sure make the
office more tolerable. —M.L.
> Berthoud Pass,
> Santa Fe ski basin,
> Mad River Glen,
> Anywhere in the
> Teton Pass, Wyoming
> Snoqualmie pass,
With his slim-fit mountaineering garb and hand-rolled cigarette, the European ski guide is perhaps skiing’s most enduring stereotype. And no place crawls with this peculiar species like Chamonix, France, the birthplace of extreme. If you call yourself a skier, go there, hire yourself one, and ski terrain so breathtaking it makes the Rockies look like the Poconos. When I visited last March, my group engaged the services of one Yannick Graziani, a taciturn guide des montagnes whose distant gaze perpetually scanned for menacing lines and hidden crevasses. He sniffed out powder and kept us alive on the iconic 17-kilometer Vallée Blanche run while the aiguilles of greater Mont Blanc scraped the sky above. Yannick is elusive, but available for a fistful of euros. Call the Scott Sports office in Fribourg, Switzerland, and ask Marc Roesti to put you in touch. —Sam Bass
August adventures generally consist of hikes, bikes, and bottomless margaritas. But at 9:30 on a sunny Thursday morning, I’m piling gear into a ski-plane in New Zealand, where it’s winter and—apparently—small aircraft are as common as snowmobiles. Let’s just say New Zealand’s winter access roads leave a lot to be desired. I try to conceal my shit-eating grin as I fasten the seatbelt.
My touring buddies and I fly past Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak at 12,316 feet, to the serac-dotted mouth of the Tasman Glacier. Here the bunkerlike Kelman and Tasman Saddle huts offer access to New Zealand’s expansive backcountry terrain in Mount Cook National Park—no reservations needed.
As the buzz of the plane fades over the serrated peaks, unfamiliar August sounds break the silence: unpeeling skins, clicking bindings, zipping pit vents. Right. It’s winter.
For seven days, we tour from the Kelman hut and ski corn-stuffed couloirs to the tune of thundering icefall. In the afternoons, we retreat to the hut to swill whiskey and slurp ramen noodles while playing cribbage. Each morning, we wake up to sparkling blue skies over endless alpine terrain, and I can’t help thinking that skiing in August tastes just a little sweeter. —S.F.
After three shipbound days on the roiling Drake Passage, a few things came to mind as I jumped from an inflatable launch onto the cobbled Antarctic shoreline. First: Holy shit, I just touched a new continent. Then: I’m about to go skiing in fricking Antarctica! And it’s sunny and warm! And finally, as my boots clattered over the slippery rocks: Don’t spiral-fracture your tib-fib before you even start skinning. What followed was a purifying mile-long ascent of a mellow ridge followed by a run down a short, tight couloir—all under mind-melting views of endless white peaks and calving glaciers. For the next five days, the skiing—all corn and sun—just got steeper and better. Squaw Valley guide Doug Stoup will take you there (or to the Arctic’s Svalbard archipelago) via cruise ship or chartered sailboat. —S.B.
You have to give up a few things when you commit to dirtbagging it in your vehicle. Hot tubs, for one—popsicle hair inevitably leads to hypothermia. Conjugal visits are another, though the line “Let’s huddle together to conserve body heat” has been known to work on occasion. Plus, the casual drunk pass-out becomes reckless self-endangerment. Actually, sleeping in your car is kind of brutal. Metal frames conduct cold like the dickens, and then there’s the outside, where you’ll have to venture in the middle of the night to pee. But it’s a lifestyle that can pay dividends. Driving all night to catch the storm of the year and cooking breakfast steps from the lift in your jams and boot liners feels pretty darn good. —H.H.
Weather is always a risk when booking a ski trip to a remote location like Central Idaho. Your best bet is a diversified portfolio. Make base camp at the Sawtooth Hotel in Stanley, Idaho. If the spring corn is on, imposing couloirs in the rugged Sawtooth Range with Sawtooth Mountain Guides await. If a system moves in up high, you can chuck meaty streamers at the sea-run steelhead of the Salmon River with Bryant Dunn of Silver Creek Outfitters. The beauty of the steelie-and-coulie combo is that you need bring only your ski gear. Bryant will have rods, waders, and enough firewater to keep you warm while you’re chest-deep in a runoff-charged river searching out the native trout. Fear no down days. —M.L.
I’d had my eyes on the San Joaquin couloir all season. It’s a beauty: a 1,500-vertical-foot, 45-to-50-degree sliver sliced clean and straight down the western face of its namesake peak outside of Telluride. It was spring, which typically means stable avy conditions in the San Juans and time to get after the exposed lines that streak the high country around the state. However, I awoke to a storm that would, by its end, total more than the previous three months’ accumulation combined. Avy danger spiked. The San Joaquin was out. Coulie skiing is a commitment that sometimes means thwarting your heart’s screaming desire. But, San Joaquin, I’ll see you this spring. —K.M.
San Juan Mountain Guides
If a heli-accessed ski-touring trip to a remote backcountry lodge in British Columbia’s Selkirk Mountains isn’t on your list, it should be. You’ll be deep in powder-choked peaks spending days chasing human-powered vertical and nights tucking into tasty meals and relaxing in a sauna at one of many lodges between Golden and Revelstoke. And the beauty is in the budget. Choose from fully guided and catered trips or simply get dropped off for a self-sustained experience. Organize a big group and book the whole place. Like scotch from different distilleries, each lodge is unique, shaped by its visitors and the surrounding peaks. One part peaceful vacation, one part physical exertion, a touring-lodge trip leaves only one thing in question: good snow. But in British Columbia, that’s pretty much expected.—Tim Grey
You know what’s great about Eastern states like Maine? Everything is pretty close together. Highfalutin places like Cali and Chile might brag about their surfing and skiing, but they have proximity-perception issues. In the great white Northeast, it takes less than two hours to get from Sunday River to the sho-ah. You can pull a.m. waves while the snow softens, then make it to the mountain before it turns to gravy. Or ski in the morning, surf in the afternoon, and spend your evening riding the faded Ferris wheel at the tank-top-and-hairy-back hot spot of Old Orchard Beach. California ain’t got shit. —H.H.
Grayson barters his 2012 Arc’Teryx prototypes for our guide Dan’s jet-fuel-stained, lime-green Euro pants. Another guide, Dave the Wave, shows off his original Jackson Hole Air Force patch. Marc tries to lift an Alaskan Amber to his mouth without disturbing four broken ribs, while Adam gets his face reassembled with butterfly bandages. It’s typical Man Camp après in Alaska Backcountry Adventures’ parking lot on Thompson Pass. The only question: Who’s gonna have to stop drinking and drive the rental minivan 45 minutes back to the Days Inn–like hotel in Valdez? This winter, you won’t have to draw straws. Man Camp is expanding into the new HooDoo Cirque Village, with cozy cabins for rent and free RV parking. It will have everything man requires—beer, burgers at ABA’s LZ café, bathrooms, and, of course, a frigging A-Star to lift you into the spiny Chugach range—you may have heard of it. —Kim Beekman
Alaska Backcountry Adventures
ABC Motorhome & Car Rentals
I am not a woman. But if I were to occasionally wish to be one, it’s only so I could join a women-only She Rocks the Alpine backcountry-skiing trip offered by Margaret Wheeler of Washington’s Pro Guiding Service. Wheeler was the second American woman to earn full certification by UIAGM, the international mountain guide association. Translation: She knows her shit. Luckily for me, She Rocks isn’t Wheeler’s only gig; she took me on a three-day, high-alpine circumnavigation of Forbidden Peak in the spectacular North Cascades. PGS has pioneered numerous routes in these peaks. Sign up for one-day chute missions near Snoqualmie Pass, deep-powder lines off Shuksan Arm (see Grant Gunderson’s cover image), or even a five-day traverse through Italy’s Ortler Alps. —S.B.
Pro Guiding Service
Gender reassignment surgery
The scene: Harrah’s, South Lake Tahoe. A group of goggle-tanned skiers stood at the closed door to Vex nightclub (famous for semi-nude washed-up ski racers performing acrobatic dance routines on bejeweled scaffolding) without a name on the high-roller list. To get us in the door, a VP of marketing in the crew threw down his credit card for bottle service. We partied to Top 40 dance hits while downing Belvedere and cranberry until they kicked us out, sometime before first chair. But that’s Tahoe—swill cocktails until 6 a.m., stumble upstairs for your gear, and beat it to the chairlift, dragging your skis past jangling slot machines. Tahoe pow will keep the buzz rolling. —Sally Francklyn
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
If I could invent a dream heli adventure, it would probably be in Patagonia with three of my buddies. We would start with Argentine swish turns through boot-deep in the shadow of the Fitz Roy. The next day, the heli would ferry us north up the spine of the Andes to another lodge, where we would ski new peaks. This process would repeat itself for about two weeks before we would touch down in Bariloche for a night of steak, wine, and discotheques. Wait—that trip already exists?! Andes Cross, an Argentine guide service specializing in heli-skiing and touring, offers it to anyone willing to part with $80,000. Sign me up. Now I just need to find myself a sugar mama. —K.L.
One week every summer, a city of 50,000 people sprouts up in the stark Nevada desert to watch the man burn. They come to interact outside the constraints of selling and buying, generating a vibrant energy that embraces the roots of human nature and community. Sure, it can get weird, but no one judges at Burning Man. You participate in the experience by being yourself. I’ve attended since 1999 and our camp now rolls 60 deep to Black Rock City. My girlfriend and I pitch a swamp-cooler-equipped, solar-powered tepee and a North Face dome-tent kitchen. But the pièce de résistance is the Art Car, a double-decker party barge perched on a biodiesel flatbed truck. With its sound system and DJ booth, we cruise around the open playa bumping music and picking up partiers. Snow people flood to Burning Man and thrive in the collective creativity and harsh environment. Shane, Ingrid, Jacqui Edgerly, and Cody Barnhill have all made multiple appearances. But the real reason skiers show up? The yearly après-ski party, complete with fake snow and goggle-clad, stretch-pant-wearing, ski-pole-toting Burners.
Burning Man Festival