Somehow we got lucky. A storm came in that night, but it was late. By nine in the morning there was a foot of fresh and it was still snowing. Standing above Jackson's Bridger gondola on a powder day in the eye of the storm, listening to the radio for patrol's word to open the mountain, was like waiting in a starting gate. Four of us, led by Jackson Hole Alpine Guide Eric Henderson, were focused on the radio strapped to his chest and amped to the point of frenzy. Depending on skiing ability, snow stability, and fitness, Henderson can take clients just about anywhere inbounds or out until the lifts close. His guiding skills aside, he was our ticket. Skiing with him meant we could cut lift lines before heading into the backcountry. Then came the call: "Valley Dispatch, this is ski patrol, you're open to… and we were gone, soaring down the foot of fresh snow. Thunder lift, then Sublette, and finally the East Ridge double. And then one by one we slipped out the upper Rock Springs Gate, following Henderson's lead into the white abyss.
Weather and Snowpack: The Teton Range averages 400 inches a year. January and February take the brunt of it. The Bridger Teton weather and avalanche office offers two daily reports (jhavalanche.org).
Terrain Highlights: It's all lift-served backcountry and this is how it works: Forty minutes of boot-packing gets you above treeline and into remote Teton steeps—up to 4,000 feet of chutes, headwalls, and glades on each run. Count on 3,500-foot powder laps down Rock Springs Drainage and Green River. More technical chutes, like Zero G and Spacewalk, sit mere minutes from the gate. Longer days include hiking and skiing the alpine terrain of Cody and No Name peaks just south of the resort. Bring skins and leapfrog between drainages or ski back to the base.
Guides: AMGA-accredited guides, including Rob Hess (the association's technical director), Eric Henderson, and Kent McBride, can lead you as far and high as you're capable of going. Terrain choices depend on group size (up to five per guide), weather, and snowpack.
Lodge and Chow: Jackson Hole has plenty of restaurants and lodges. Just be ready at 8:30 a.m. with a a good night's rest, a packed lunch, and lots of calories from a big breakfast at Nick Wilson's Cowboy Cafe.
Must Know: Don't forget the obvious: Morning inbounds runs can be a blast. Lap Rendezvous Bowl a couple times before heading out of the gate.
Max Elevation: 10,753 feet (top of Cody Peak) Max Vertical Drop: 4,441 feet Average Daily Vertical: 10,000—15,000 feet Price: $560 for 1—3 people; $125 per additional person (5 max.) Info: 800-450-0477; Jacksonhole.com.