As our crew scavenges the snow patches on the Beartooth Pass for spots to build a jump we find a patch where there just might be a chance of a dream come true, as I stick my snow probe into the snow I realize this is perfect… Time to build a tunnel jump!
June 6, 2021 Its the last day of our annual trip to ski the Beartooth Pass and we plan to end it off with a bang.
After sleeping the previous night away under the stars we are planned and ready to make this dream a reality.
But it wont come easy.
It took nearly 8 hours of shoveling snow and molding jumps till we were getting the first hits in, but boy was it worth it.
As the photographer I knew I had to capture this unique jump, I just had to figure out how…
I found a composition I was really happy with after walking around and through the tunnel for a few minutes and I knew this one had potential
I gave the athletes some time to warm up and myself some time to figure out the exact shot, then all of a sudden it lined up!
Easily one of my favorite shots of the season and I was watching it happen through my viewfinder!
As I rushed over to my friends to show it off I I knew my all encompassing shot was grabbed and I couldn’t be more pleased. My job there was complete, at least until they figure out their next crazy jump in another amazing location…
Like most of the best trips, it started with a simple message.
This was no small mission, we were attempting to ski one of the ’50 Classic Ski Descents of North America’ – The Skillet.
The crew of this mission consisted of Chris Burton, the Jackson Hole local that had the dream for this line
Katie Burton, Chris’s sister, always down for an adventure.
Benjamin Flook, Montana local coming down to ski the line of a lifetime
And me, the photographer. Also making the trek down from Montana
After a month of keeping an eye on the weather we finally found our window and it was time to pack up.
Two hours into packing I felt pretty good about having everything. It seems like you never feel like you have everything on these big missions, but it was time to start driving.
Ben and I had a 4.5 hour drive ahead of us and we wasted no time in it to get over to Jackson, WY as soon as possible so we could get some sleep in before the big day.
As we got into Teton National Park we could start to see our line, and that is when the reality of the whole thing set in…
We were going to be skiing that
Since we were going to be skiing this line in June it was warm enough to boat across Jackson lake and hike from pretty much the base.
The boat of choice was a sail boat
This was Ben and I’s first experience on a sail boat and a pretty rad one at that. But it defiantly took some getting used to coming from a state with just mountains.
With the wind pushing us along and Mt. Moran ahead we took this time to relax and mentally prepare for the long night ahead.
It only took right around two hours for us to arrive at the beach right were we would start hiking.
From there all we had to do was pack our bags and eat dinner before we began the long hike.
This hike was tough from the start, with a 9:30 pm start we hoped to summit right at sunrise just in time for the snow to soften a bit for the ski down.
That was the plan at least. After traversing for an hour to get around a cliff, then walking up a boulder field with bus size boulders in the dark we finally took a moment to reassess the situation and think about the reasonability of what’s ahead.
At 2:15 in the morning, not being able to find a way around the next boulder in the dark and being behind schedule to hike up in reasonable snow we made the hard decision to call it a night on the semi-flat boulder we were on. We didn’t pack sleeping bags so we just put on all the layers we could and found a comfy spot on the rock.
It’s never fun to have to make the call to turn around. But in some situations it really does save a life. The snow would have been too warm while we hiked up, on top of that the boulder field of an approach before the glacier was taking far too long to navigate safely in the dark which only made the situation worse.
On the bright side, we did get to wake up to a stunning and very unique sunrise with Jackson lake below us.
And we didn’t let the trip be a total defeat. We managed to find a couple large snow patches around for us to take a shred on and get our June turns checked off.
And just like that it was time to head back down to the boat.
The down hike was significantly better being able to see and now knowing how to get around the massive cliff below.
And luckily it wasn’t very eventful either. We just trudged right the way down
Seeing the boat on the shore line after hours of hiking was one of the best feeling ever
All in all I would and probably will do it all again, all except the not making it up part.
“Dream as if you’ll live forever, Live as if you’ll die tomorrow”
December 29, 2020 I just left the place I have called home for my whole life to go off and live out of my 1992 Honda Accord for the next 3 months, spirits are high.
I have decided to call it the IKONic Trip, get it? Cause I am riding at all the Ikon Pass resorts in western America. And this IKONic Trip is about to be the best 3 month of my life, and I don’t even know it yet
This journey begins in Jackson, WY
I arrive in the town of Jackson not knowing anyone or even where I’ll be staying the night. Luckily after finding a local ski shop and asking the local ski bums the let me in on the spots.
It took about the first week to figure out how this whole ski bum thing works. My sleep schedule was off, my eating was off, and I had no idea what to do with myself.
Luckily about a week in I got a random Instagram DM out of the blue
This simple DM got me connecting into the Jackson Hole community and really launched me right into full ski bum mode. I started waking up at 7 am to get those early turns, and even 5:30 one morning to get on first tram.
There are way too many fun moments to recount them all so I’ll share one of my favorite days.
It was the morning of January 6th and my alarm goes off at 5:30 am. I didn’t sleep great given that it was right around 0°F all night, but I know that in a couple hours I won’t regret this early wake up time
I arrive at the trail head of with todays athlete, Sophia Schwatz.
I am scrambling to get all my gear ready to go with my half frozen fingers, but I can’t stop to warm them up because we have a sunrise to catch.
As a photographer power poles are usually my arch nemesis, but in this case they stick out like giants and make a very cool scene.
We keep skinning along until we finally hit the saddle and then I see it, an inversion!
Coming from Montana we don’t get inversions all that much so this was extra special to me. I get my camera out and prepare capture all this moment has to offer.
As quick as the sunrise began, it dissipated into the just a simple morning sun. But somehow the day still wasn’t over! We still had a jump session ahead of us.
With a soft landing and a jump already made for us Sophia absolutely threw it down for the shots!
Now the day was finally wrapping up and I couldn’t wait to get to the computer and start editing!
I had way too many amazing stories to put them all in this single blog so I’ll just let a small photo gallery do the rest of the talking:
What a perfect place to start off my trip!
Number of car malfunctions: 2
Coldest night: -5 °F
Number of nights in my car: 11
Tim Durtchi’s photographed: 1
Cool people met: 9
Picture taken: 1.9k
Hot springs enjoyed: 1
That pretty much wraps up my time in Jackson, WY. I wouldn’t replace it for anything, but I had other places to explore! Stay tuned to hear about Part 2 in Colorado! *Spoiler* It only got colder
It matters little how much equipment we use; it matters much that we become master of all we do use.
This week I wanted to do another quick gear review on a piece of gear that has stuck with me almost my whole ski career and that is a pair of G3 Via ski poles. NOT SPONSORED
Ski poles are something that we hardly ever think about until something goes wrong with them.
And that is exactly why I love my pair of Via pole so much. I have whacked countless cornices, trees, skis, and rocks with my set of poles and I am still never worried about them breaking any time soon.
I owned and snapped a pair of cheap, standard poles before I bought this pair of G3 Via’s and have never looked back since.
Some of my favorite features include:
Easily adjustable size
3 good grabbing spots if you put duct tape on (which you should be doing anyway)
Quality hand loops (they easily come off too, but never when you don’t want them to)
Nice weight / quality ratio
Good size powder basket
I really don’t know what else a ski pole can offer you other than carrying you up the mountain. (maybe some day)
A pair of skis are the ultimate transportation to freedom
Today I wanted to do a quick review on my do it all ski for the last year+
The 2020 edition of Black Crows Atris has been my every day ski for the last year now and in general I have absolutely loved them.
Some quick facts to get out of the way, I am 5′ 10″ and 140lbs. I rock the 178.3 length option on the Atris which is a little short for me, but that is what I was looking for when I got them. And if I had to define my skiing with one word it would be freeride.
Now I am not a technical kind of person so you wont be hearing about reverse camber, turn radius, twin tips, and the best wax combos to use. What I will be talking about is how the actually feel and what they best shred.
I live in South West Montana which means I am blessed with super light cold smoke powder and lots of it. And after skiing these on west coast “powder” I would defiantly say these are more suited for a lighter powder.
But on the other hand I also ski all summer, so they have seen their fair share of icy conditions. Paired with the Salomon Shift binding they have made for a surprisingly light setup for being 108 underfoot.
In the summer I value how light the Atris are for the hike up and the strong edge you can get with them for the ski down.
In the winter I love the 108 underfoot width. I find that to be the perfect width to have a blast on a powder day, but still be able to charge on a good groomer day.
Bringing me to another point, the fantastic ability of these skis to just blast through any conditions. Chowder, a little ice, the Atris don’t care.
Some of the cons I’ve seen
Can tend to be a little flaky if you’re hard on it
The backs of the skis could be a little more attuned to hold onto skin clips
They are on the more expensive side for a pair of sticks
A cool bonus is this cool pattern the snow makes when the sun and snow aligns just right
I have absolutely loves my pair of Black Crow Atris and would highly recommend them for most people. There are defiantly better skis for certain categories, such as lighter skis for backcountry, skinnier skis for icy conditions, wider skis for powder. But the Atris does it all with very little compromise.
That’s what I was saying shortly after logging into Instagram and seeing a story posted by a stranger about a potential dawn mission the next day.
The name behind this new face was Ty Johns. I had never met him but I knew that anyone willing to wake up and ski at sunrise was someone I wanted to know.
After 3 missed alarms I finally glugged out of bed at 3:07 am. I wasn’t feeling it yet, but I knew that in just a couple hours I wouldn’t regret a thing.
At 4:05 I finally pulled into the parking lot with caffeine flowing through my veins. We wasted no time in getting started on the way up.
Hiking up in the dark is a very different experience, you can’t see anything so you have no sense of distance and you don’t play and mind games of getting to an objective and stopping. With this on our side we cruised up in record time, arriving at the ridge in just 2 hours.
This was just in time to watch the dawn start to break.
With stoke high we continued along the ridge to find out where we wanted to drop in
After looking over a few potential spots we decided on one that looked to be the best conditions
After just a few turned in, I knew we had picked right. After I posted up for pictures, I told the others to go ahead and drop in for one of those runs you drool about in the middle of summer.
With only a few patched being icy. We had all to ourselves almost 1,000 feet of powder skiing. And boy was it a fun one to ski.
And just like that we were back to the cars at just about 8 am ready to head off to work!
“Today was a big day. We hiked 9 miles, 2,500′ of vert, all with 40ish pound packs and one extra sled. The sled added a whole new dynamic in my mountain climbing experience, we tied it off to the end of our packs and switch off every mile or so. Although I will probably be glad we brought it along, it sure was a pain to get up here. But now we have the camp all set up for the awesome week that is to come.”
Or at least that is what I would have wrote had I remembered to journal through the exhaustion that fogged my mind as I drifted off to sleep in my warm sleeping bag.
First you have to meet the crew that made this trip as awesome as it was.
Jadon When he’s not hyping the group up you can find him getting inverted.
Andrew The new guy just trying to survive the journey.
Keegan The hype man
Benjamin The quiet guy who pops out of no where and goes bigger than everyone.
Isaac The video guy who can’t help himself and gets in on all the lines.
Me The Photographer
Day 1: And It Begins
The day started at 4:30 am, started hiking at around 7, just a lot of trudging with the sled, nothing too eventful. We got to the camp site around 5 pm.
We set up camp right on the edge of Granite Lake. Lucky for us there was a layer of slushy water about 2 feet under the surface of the lake which provided easy access to water.
We were all exhausted and got to bed shortly after setting up camp.
Day 2: Sore, but ready to go
We wasted no time and got right to the skiing. I had the honors of the 1st line of the week.
We started off basic with the line you can see in the image above, mostly sticking to the right side to get the feel for things.
Right after we ate lunch we went over to some old slide paths and practiced our avalanche safety.
While Jadon and Keegan were waiting for their round at practice, they decided to build a kicker out of a drift which proved to be a nice pass time while watching the sun set.
Jadon (Left), Keegan (Middle), Benjamin (Right)
After the sun set, we all sat around a campfire, drank hot coco, and dried our boots. We were waiting for it to get really dark to try out some night skiing.
Once we were happy with how dark it was we suited up, turned on our headlamps, and headed out. Isaac and I set up our cameras and waited with anticipation to watch the dot of light float down in the darkness.
Day 3: Pancakes!
After staying up till midnight night skiing the previous night, we woke up at 6:30 am on a mission to get a big line in with one thing motivating us, Pancakes!
After the 1 mile approach we peaked over the ridge that was blocking our view of the run and we began to see what we were in for.
We hiked up the left most couloir in the picture above. It was right at 800′ of vert, and around 45 degree slope, maxing out at 55 degrees.
Isaac hugging the slope to show just how steep this stuff is. You defiantly don’t want to loose a ski or fall on this stuff.
Once we all dug out or spots to clip in, I set out to find a spot to get some pictures. It was very steep and pretty intimidating, but I managed to sneak a handful of quality turns in there.
But then it happened, what we all feared…
As Isaac was making a nice turn his ski suddenly ejected which left him helpless to his instincts and the snow.
Lucky for him he fell in one of the less steep and softer parts and was able to stop his sliding and catch both his skis. But as smooth as it went, don’t be fooled, he defiantly got his fair share of adrenaline from the incident.
After we skied back we finally got to break out the pancake batter.
Jadon (Left), Isaac (Right)
Jadon was our cook who made all the delicious pancakes that everyone had been longing for.
As we devoured our pancakes, we slowly began to think, “Maybe the sled wasn’t so bad after all.”
We all drifted off to sleep in our slightly wet sleeping bags with uncertainty as to what the weather had to hold. Last we saw, (3 days ago) we were supposed to get rain the next day.
Day 4: Heading Out… Eventually
As I slept, I was rustled awake every once and a while by big gusts of wind and the sound of what I thought to be snow falling on our tent.
I finally felt rested and ready to go, as I opened the tent flap I was happy to see powder right at my doorstep.
I didn’t get much in video or picture of this day. But we really had a blast!
We finally got out and skied a gully we had been eyeing up all week and did it in prime conditions. The snow was soft, what a blessing!
Sadly we knew it was going to rain the next day and made the hard decision to pack up and get out of there. We didn’t end up leaving until around 5 pm.
Jadon eyeing up his line
Right after we crossed the lake we walked under a pillow line we couldn’t resist. Maybe a mile into our walk out and we already had to stop for a line.
After that detour, we managed to stay on track and ski/hike the rest of the way out. The first half was fun and filled with skiing, but after that was pretty flat and you know how that goes.
After a long walk in the dark on the road that had been snow covered only a few days ago, we finally saw the glint of the car in our headlamps. This was just before 10 pm.
And the rest is history. As we all got back to our homes I enjoyed the best cereal I have ever had, and enjoyed the soft and dry feeling of laying in my own bed.
I hope that you enjoyed this story and maybe even learned something from it or got inspired! If you want to hear more stories like this you can subscribe below