Winter 2017 shapes up to be a big one. Snowbanks tower in town. Winds howl. Snow blows. Old man winter descends on Jackson Hole. The deep snow challenges the wildlife as they struggle for sufficient food and travel routes. RAY of white blankets the valley with hardly a twig peaking above the sage flats.
Once the snow started to fall in December, it didn’t stop. After a delayed November opening for local ski resorts, Mother Nature dumped 10 feet of snow in December. By January 11, 300 inches of snow is reported at the Rendezvous Bowl plot in Teton Village. By the end of the month, 343 inches has fallen. According to bestsnow.net, during our last big winter, 1996-97, 572 inches fell. This was 156% of normal. Currently, the snow is deep, the valley is white, and the month of December ends with a winter storm.
As we ski and ride the Thunder Quad at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, we monitor “the rock”. There is a large rock or actually a boulder that leans against a tree and is visible from the chairlift. We watch this to monitor snow depth. When the rock is covered, it means 100 inches of snow has accumulated or about 8.5 feet. This year, the rock has been hidden for some time and skiing has been great.
We don’t always have deep snow in town. Some winters, the snow accumulates at higher elevations leaving town rather bare. Not this year, snow banks tower over the sidewalks. The plow crews frantically plow to keep roadways and sidewalks clear during storms. Sunny days are used to move the piles of plowed snow. Eventually, it gets tough to find a place to store it.
I can’t help to think of the homesteaders. Those hearty folks who survived big winters in a one room cabin. It is a challenge today and I can’t even imagine being in a small cabin with nature raging outside. I am so grateful for my shovel and the snowplows.
It is easy to see the effects of deep snow on the wildlife. Big Horn Sheep decided to leave the National Elk Refuge to access cliff bands and salted roadways on Highway 89. Sheep are now found on the highway so we must be extra cautious. You drive down the Teton Village Road, pass the moose warning signs to catch a glimpse of mom and junior standing in a plowed driveway waiting to cross the road. Snow banks are over 4 feet high! Deer are in town trying to find food. A wolf kill closed access to the Moose-Wilson Road at the end of the month. It is rumored that they killed a cow and calf moose. The unplowed road is closed to recreationists so the wolves have room to do what wolves do. Winter isn’t half over and we have almost reached annual snowfall. Summer could be a long way off.
What’s in the woods
1/3- cow/ calf moose in backyard. Cow moose a bit aggressive toward dogs
1/3- elk refuge- 6 thousand elk, 2 bald eagles
1/4- frigid temperatures
1/8- turpin meadows- four moose
1/9- winter storm
1/11- winter storm continues, extreme avalanche danger, snow and wind for three days, feet of snow, maximum wind gust- 65mph
1/15- bald eagle perched on power pole over Highway 390
1/17-frigid, cold temperatures
1/19- cow/calf moose trying to cross Teton Village Rd at night
1/27-highway 89- big horn sheep on highway licking salt
1/29-mule deer feeding on pine near bowling alley
1/30- start of next winter storm
1/31-golden eagle near East Gros Ventre Butte
Lots of places to play. With so much snow, options are endless. To try something different, tubing at Snow King is fun entertainment or rent skates and try a local rink in town. If it has been stormy, it is great to check the grooming report on the Teton County Parks and Rec web site so you can get current conditions. Skiing at ski resorts has also been great. Backcountry options are endless but be avalanche aware and make a plan. Have fun and be safe out there.