If backcountry skiers in Jackson, Wyoming, seem a little goofy this winter, forgive them: They've just had their prayers answered. In a major departure from previous policy, Jackson Hole has opened its boundaries, allowing full-time access to adjacent backcountry terrain in the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park.
"There are thousands of acres of skiing back there," says Jackson spokesperson Anna Olson. "It's an opportunity for the people who understand what the backcountry is all about, as well as for guests who can hire a guide." With the new policy, one of the key concepts at Jackson this year will be personal responsibility: Skiers leaving the resort through its backcountry gates will be venturing into areas without avalanche control, though the gates will be posted with maps, warnings, and avalanche ratings.
"It's about time," says an enthusiastic Doug Coombs, the marquee freeskier who was notoriously banned from the mountain in 1997 after being caught skiing out-of-bounds. Still, he adds, "I hope visitors respect the signs."