I got lucky yesterday and was able to grab an open seat with High Mountain Heli-Skiing (HMH). The morning broke clear with bluebird skies, but the forecast was for incoming clouds, so we had to get it while we could.
I was a little unsure of how it would work out, going heli-skiing where I knew more of the guides than the clients, but lucky I got with a great group of skiers. We had a very diverse group with a couple guys from Rossignol, Jason and Thor, who where in town for the big Powder ski test that has been going on this week at Teton Village. Another Jackson local Topher, who works at TVS was with the Rossi group, and Gary from the UK made it a five-some. Dave Fett was our guide, but Nat Patridge seemed to be always lurking nearby. I don’t think he would admit it in front of team Rossi, but I think he had a thing for my Verdicts.
After a brief outline of the program at the offices in town, we were shuttled down to the Snake River Sporting Club, where HMH launches from. The ship arrived and we were soon shuttled into the mountains to an area they call Reeds. We skied a few laps on some southerly aspects while the snow was still good. It has snowed a tin here lately and HMH has been shut down for four days, so we played it pretty conservative. Lucky the pitch was steep enough to turn with all the snow.
We all got to know each other better after a few runs and Dave began to talk about some of the issues HMH is currently dealing with. Recently HMH’s permit can up for renewal, and some conservation groups got involved in trying to limit the number of user days HMH has available to them in a given season. (FYI…one user day = one client.) Well, the ruling on this was just recently made and it wasn’t in HMH’s favor. Over the past few years, HMH has averaged close to 900 user days/season. The new rule limits them to 65/season over the next few years. These kinds of numbers make in nearly impossible to run a heli-operation, and I’m sure this isn’t the end of the deliberations. I fell a little bad for the HMH guys, and there battle to hold onto terrain they have been guide for years now. To me, the ruling doesn’t seem like much of a compromise.
After lunch we hit an area called Squirt, which was more or less the back-side of Reeds. Nat and Dave dug a pit and confirmed some thoughts of instability in the snowpack with a hoar frost layer about 130cms down. This layer remains from the high and dry of January. Though pretty far down the snowpack, and slowly collapsing, the hoar frost layer still lurks on the northerly aspects. For you pit hounds…the numbers were; CT25-30, Q1, 130.
We kept the skiing in the trees and at a moderate pitch. Soon the clouds began to roll in and the pilot called it. We had gotten our 6 runs in for about 14,000′ and the snow was of supreme quality to say the least. It was great to meet and ski with some new people and I think I heard all there is to hear about the flex of Rossignol’s fat skis. Thanks to the whole crew at HMH (especially Jen who called me the night before about the open seat) for a fun day of skiing the pow, as well as Phil and Jeff from the shop for footing the bill!
When I got back to town, I zipped over to the grocery store in order to continue today’s gluttony. My phone rang after the deli counter and it was a search and rescue call-out. A snowboarder was cliffed out in the Northwest Passage of Granite Canyon. This is typically Park jurisdiction, but with the last hour, and uncertainty of the situation, we played back-up. Since I was still all geared up from skiing, I was kind of excited to get back into the mountains and maybe freeze my butt off a bit in the shade of Granite Canyon, but in the end all I did was stand around and eat too much chocolate in the parking lot. Classic SAR.