February snowfall just shy of record

By Jim Stanford on February 28, 2014

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Jess McMillan gets a faceful during this month’s near-record snowfall.

With 7 inches of new snow measured this morning in Rendezvous Bowl, February 2014 will go down as the second-snowiest February since record keeping began at the Jackson Hole Ski Area in 1975.

This month has seen 133 inches of snow fall in the Tetons, trailing only the infamous February 1986, when the Headwall slid to Teton Village and a ski patroller died during avalanche control work.

“This is a very close second to an unbelievable year, an unbelievable February,” Bridger-Teton avalanche forecaster Bob Comey says.

The precise amount of snowfall that fell in Rendezvous Bowl in February 1986 will never be known, as the upper mountain was closed for eight days because of avalanche danger. The 129 inches listed on the avalanche center’s website is an estimate, Comey says.

An additional inch of moisture fell in February 1986, and the mid-mountain study plot received 122 inches of snowfall, compared to this month’s 117.

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massive Beaver slide

By Jim Stanford on February 11, 2014

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Beaver Mountain in Hoback Canyon.

What, you were expecting this?

While many people were oohing and aahing about a slow-mo wet slide that oozed into an Italian village, a cataclysmic avalanche occurred over the weekend much closer to home, on the east side of Beaver Mountain.

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center reported last night that a 6-foot-deep slab released and ran 3,100 vertical feet. The center described it as “R5/D5 sized.” That’s a really big droid.

The slide reportedly carved out a new path, destroying hundreds of trees and piling debris 40 feet deep. “The air blast ran further than the debris and snapped trees estimated to be 150 years old,” the center reported.

Not to be confused with a small ski hill in northern Utah (slogan: Ski the Beav!), Beaver Mountain is located east of Hoback Junction. It is skied from time to time by Hoback locals, one of whom phoned in the report to the avalanche center. Motorists have been pulling over in Hoback Canyon to gaze at the site.

Despite its prodigious size, the avalanche was only the second-scariest news of late involving beavers.

(Photo by Phil H)

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powder, sunshine for Targhee opening

By Jim Stanford on November 23, 2013

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Frederick Reimers carves a north-facing stash above the Blackfoot lift.

Grand Targhee couldn’t have scripted a much better opening for its 45th season.

A huge crowd from Wyoming and eastern Idaho turned out yesterday to carve fresh powder beneath a brilliant blue sky. The Alta, Wyo., resort opened all of its lifts, with a 4-foot base on the north-facing slopes.

After several weeks of slogging through the backcountry and even up Snow King, shredders were elated to have lift service again. Skiers glided down runs with the crags of the Tetons and Jedediah Smith Wilderness in the distance. To the west, the view across the Gem State stretched for more than a hundred miles.

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new features for avalanche forecast

By Jim Stanford on November 21, 2013

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Nov. 10 slide on Jackson Peak.

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center began issuing forecasts several weeks early this year, good timing given considerable snowfall and two avalanches (here and here) triggered by skiers in extreme terrain.

Forecasters continue to improve the website. New this winter is an interactive map on the home page that allows users to find forecasts for other mountain ranges around the West, from the Gallatins of Montana to Utah’s Wasatch and even the San Juans in southern Colorado.

The home page also has a photo gallery of recent avalanches and conditions around the region. The site makes it easier for backcountry travelers to submit observations, and new layers on the avalanche event map show closures for motorized use and winter wildlife.

While traffic on the website continues to grow, phone use (307-733-2664) has dropped off sharply, so much so that forecasters have considered eliminating the phone recording. The number of calls has dropped from 40,000 in 2010-11 to 20,000 and then 10,000 the last two winters, forecaster Bob Comey says.

The snow depth at Grand Targhee is 4 feet. Targhee, located on the west slope of the Tetons above Alta, Wyo., opens tomorrow. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which opens on Thanksgiving, has nearly 3 feet of settled snow.

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words of wisdom for autumn trails

By Jim Stanford on October 8, 2013

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Stewardship of trails requires some restraint.

Anyone who has ventured onto shaded or north-facing slopes in recent days has discovered muddy trails, so wet with melting snow in places that even careful foot passage is nearly impossible.

It’s frustrating when mountain bike season comes abruptly to an end, even more so when pathways are closed by a government shutdown. But there still are several good options (South Park Loop, anyone?) for getting a wheeled workout, especially on a road bike.

From Friends of Pathways:

Riding in mud can wreck the tread on the trail by leaving ruts that dry into hard bumps. This in turn contributes to erosion and further damage, while creating unrideable and hard-to-fix trail surfaces. If you are leaving a visible rut, the trail is too muddy to ride!

Varying weather conditions during the spring and fall can be especially critical for trails. You can still get out and ride and walk the trails, but please be aware of wet trail and very muddy spots. If you see that it is too wet, dismount your bike, push your bike through the mud, and walk on the edge of the trail.

Please don’t ride around the mud spots either; this creates an unsustainably wide trail and can even create two trails in one spot.

Perhaps it’s best to save the mountain bike for Moab or other points south.

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