ski stoke of yesteryear

By Jim Stanford on October 24, 2012

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Bunny hill rope tow on Snow King, circa 1950s.

The season’s first significant snowfall triggered the usual flurry of status updates and text messages. Undoubtedly, most in this ski-crazy community are excited for the coming winter. Another day or two of snow, and the race will be on to make first tracks.

Long before Teton Gravity Research premieres, the early ski pioneers in Jackson Hole were just as enthusiastic. They recorded the joy of winter’s arrival in journals slightly more poetic than today’s spraying.

While researching a story on historic winters for the upcoming Jackson Hole magazine, I came across a few of these accounts. Here’s an excerpt from Doris Platts’ book Wilson, Wyoming: Hoorah!, written by the late Virginia Huidekoper in her column “The Corral” for the Jackson’s Hole Courier on Nov. 15, 1945:

The skiing season was officially opened … by a mixed group of eager Idahoans and Wyomingites who gathered on Teton Pass and gave vent to pent-up desires which had accumulated during the dry months. Three feet of powdered satin on Telemark Hill gave semblance to a winter battlefield by evening. Criss-crossed and pock-marked, the slope was initiated in true fashion by weak-kneed christies and first-of-the-season egg beaters.

In spite of near-blizzard conditions, the initial ski outing was hailed as a good beginning to what looks like a long and promising winter.

In the same November 1945 Courier, as documented in Platts’ book, Renee Herring of Wilson wrote a longer “Winter Story” about the change of seasons. Her father, Bill Howard, was foreman of the old Bar BC Ranch.

The first snow is down. Winter once more becomes a reality and the community settles down in its whiteness, anticipating the ensuing months with mixed emotions.

Herring goes on to detail how various segments of the community react. Late-staying dudes “beat a hasty retreat” once the first snowflake appears. The tourist crowds “seem to be swept away by the first wintry blast,” she writes. “Jackson puts up its storm windows, turns up the heat, and becomes a very subdued little village, indeed.”

For merchants, business drops off sharply. Fast-selling summer goods are put away, and “out come stocks of homely long underwear, woolen shirts, and wind-breaking sheepskins.” For the rancher, “winter means work — just a lot of back-breaking work.”

And then there is this excerpt, transcribed in Platts’ handwriting:

Excerpt from “Winter Story” by Renee Herring. Click to enlarge.

Sportsters. I’m not sure I’ve heard schottische, but I think the Pink Garter ought to book one of those bands this winter and have everyone show up in ski boots.

“Various moods of acceptance.” That sums up how I’m feeling on this frigid day.

(Photo via Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum)


Posted under Sports, Weather, Wyoming

3 Comments so far

  1. ali October 24, 2012 10:42 pm

    What a wonderful passage. I arrived here about 40 years too late. Really must have been incredible back then. What bad asses they were without a doubt and without a single “bro – it was super gnarl out there” in sight. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. hk October 24, 2012 10:46 pm


  3. Chad October 25, 2012 2:30 pm

    There were people laying down tracks on Edelweiss yesterday. They described it as bushwacking. Sounds fun.

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