The Devil's Half-Dozen: Corbet's Couloir Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Devil's Half Dozen 1003

Is Corbet's hard? No. It's the climb back up to retrieve your gear that's hard. In 1960, Barry Corbet, pioneering instructor and guide at Jackson, peered into this chasm and declared, "This will be a run. People will ski that." He did, and patrol named the run after him. "Corbet's is a put-up-or-shut-up run," says well-known Jackson freeskier and filmmaker Todd Jones. "It's the proving ground at Jackson. Most who look in there decide to ski around it."


How to ski it: Some days Corbet's kicks your butt; some days it makes you feel like a king. Surviving the elevator shaft of snow at the top is what counts. The drop can be anywhere from 10 to 30 feet depending on snowfall. Once you're psyched, sidestep to the edge, and ignore butterflies and the crowd egging you on. Point your skis straight down and drop in between the rock walls. Unless there's new snow, the top may be full of ruts and bumps. You'll accelerate from 0-20 mph in a few seconds. Don't try to stop. Find your balance and make a big smearing turn to the right beneath the cornice to scrub speed.


Take a deep breath: Now you're in. Make a couple of turns and stop. It's still steep, but you're standing on a huge apron of snow and can see plenty of lines below. There may even be a nice surface layer of windblown powder.


Corbet's Couloir is nearly vertical at the top, but it "flattens" to 50 degrees as you ski down. Make anything from huge super G turns across the whole couloir to tight slalom turns near the rock faces. Powder skiing doesn't get any better than this. The pitch is excellent.


Now's a good time to wait for a buddy. After you've gotten over the big drop, you feel elated and relaxed. After 500 feet, Corbet's runout takes you into Tensleep Bowl, where your last few turns will be thrillers. Many believe that after they've skied Corbet's once they'll be eager to go right back and do it again. That's not always the case. Be content that you have bragging rights in the bar.

The Gear

Use a midfat when the snow gets old, hard and chalky. Use a powder ski when there's fresh snow. Always wear a helmet. I've gotten in the back seat and ended up cartwheeling. There are rocks and debris below.

The Prep

Corbet's is a high-risk run that demands high commitment. It's basically a cliff jump. Make sure you land with your skis parallel to the snow. Practice by skiing off the side of a big halfpipe then rolling immediately onto edge. In Corbet's however, the slope below your first turn is about 50 degrees.