By: randosteve|Posted on: December 31, 2011|Posted in: The Tetons, Wimpy's | 24 comments

Barring multiple avalanche warnings and overall sketchy snow conditions, it’s petty hard to sit around the house or wait in lift-lines with a bazillion other skiers, and I’ve been trying to get out into the backcountry and ski what is available…without getting killed in the process. After getting denied and turning around at 8k’ in the park a couple days ago due to wind, weather and yeah, extreme avalanche danger, I skied the pass yesterday, but felt the need to get out into the park again today and do some snow control on the areas I like to ski most. The reported 9” of new light density snow meant the skiing would be killer! How could I resist?

Clearing skies and cold temps kept the stoke level high as our group moved into the more open terrain below Wimpys. The cold temps made travel so much easier than just a couple days before, when the guy breaking trail would sink well above their knees in the sugary snowpack. We moved smoothly through the lower field this time, and then proceeded to get on the lower, steeper flanks of the Wimpster.

It was at this point were my partner and I had turned around two days earlier, as the shooting cracks and extremely audible whumps, and general settling of the snowpack, was just too much to bear. Knowing the terrain and history of slides on Wimpys however, I felt that if one were to stay in the relative safe zones, it was likely you could make it to the top of the run during high avalanche danger. But, it would definitely take a lot of nerve to keep pushing uphill as the slope continually warned you of its instability with every step you took. Today, I felt that I had a bit more nerve than the day before, so we moved up past our turn around point.

The lure of powder skiing.
Click all photos for larger image.

Breaking trail was surprisingly easy, but the settling of the snowpack was enough to drive the most seasoned backcountry skiers crazy. I tried not to think about the hazard though, and kept heading uphill. We spaced ourselves out as much as possible on the skin-track, to spread out our effect on the snowpack, and we soon found ourselves in safer, less exposed terrain. There relative safety of the trees was reassuring, as we weaved our way up higher.

Soon, we were in the upper bowl and it looked like we would get our “summit”, and that the skiing was going to be freaking awesome! I was getting stoked. There were a couple more spots of relative hazard we would need to pass, but I thought we had it. I gave up the lead and fell to the back of the line for a bit to enjoy the sun and dream about the pow that was about to be crushed.

pow turns next to slide in upper bowl.

We kept our skin-track in the safe zones and in the trees as much as possible as we tried to make our way up the final bowl. As we approached one of the few final hazard-zones, a whump came from deep in the snowpack…and we heard it rumble away from us under our skis. It stopped us in our tracks, and made us think once again if we should turn around or not. After talking and looking around for a bit, we finally saw the slide, and it dawned on us that we had just remotely trigged quite a large slide in the gut of Wimpys from 150-200’ away.

It was tempting to continue upward, since the slope had already slid and reaffirmed my thoughts as to the safe and unsafe zones on Wimpys, but we listen to reason and our inner voices and high-tailed it out of there, about 500’ from the top. Lower down, we saw another slide in what I call the middle-gully, which must have also pulled out when the upper bowl did as well…but was more like 2-300’ from our skin track. Pretty touchy snowpack to say the least.

If you look close, you can see our ski tracks between the two slide paths.
Our skin track was in the trees just to the left of the
ski tracks when we remotely triggered the avalanches.

The ski down was awesome, as you can expect, and we ended up skinning back up to our highpoint for another lap. One might think this is extremely stupid, but like I said prior, the slides today reaffirmed my thoughts relating to the safe skiing and skinning zones on the route, which we stuck to…sorta.