Wow, what a month! Mother Nature and Old Man Winter have whipped and raged through the valley. Winter storms, driving rain, wind, and snow, more snow. All plant eaters: moose, deer, bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep are stressed. All carrion eaters and scavengers: wolves, lions, coyotes, eagles, ravens, magpies are dancing the happy dance.
By the first week of February, we had received average monthly snowfall. By the second week, we had surpassed the record. During this time, we had a huge storm with winds of 90 miles an hour, road closures, avalanches, airport closures, and a huge power outage that knocked down 17 power poles and caused loss of power in Teton Village for 5 days. It’s been described as an epic storm, a natural disaster. During “snowmagedon”, as it’s been phrased, Jackson received the equivalent of 10 inches of moisture. Snow dominated the month, new records were set and total snowfall is currently 494 inches at 9,500 feet.
All valley inhabitants are dealing with the big winter. We shovel, plow, move snow and prepare for the next round of weather. Teton Village/Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is advertising a relentless winter with a record-breaking season. It’s awesome if you’re a ski resort but if you are a mule deer life is tough. Deer don’t like snow over 8 inches deep so they are in town on roads, paths and by homes. Bison chose to walk down highway 89/191 so Grand Teton Park plowed access so they would move away from the highway. It’s hard to get a Bison to move if it doesn’t want to. Snowbanks tower over cars.
Wolves closed the popular Moose-Wilson Road in Grand Teton Park which is a nice place to snowshoe or xc ski. A cow and calf moose were killed so Grand Teton Park closed the area from Granite Canyon to Death Canyon to allow the predators and scavengers to clean up. Winter is the season of predators. Prey species, the herbivores, get weakened as winter progresses since food sources are scarce. This year will set records with snowfall and mortality.
The third week of February temperatures warmed up so we had rain and driving wind. The quiet sound of falling snow changed to drip, drip, drip. This is the year to come ski and play in the snow with lots of winter left. March and April can be wet and snowy but I would like to request a bit more sun. February only had 3 clear days. Should be an awesome flower year once it all melts!
What’s in the woods
2/2-2/10- winter storms. One after another. Over 6 feet of snow then rain.
2/11- call of the raven
2/12- about 12 deer sleeping outside. Three under one tree, 7 under my spruce and three in common area
2/14- Flat Creek- golden eagle, two trumpeter swans
2/15- young female moose walking on willow street
2/16- young deer under my spruce
2/16- numerous ungulates in the exposed areas on East Gros Ventre Butte
2/18- flat creek- belted kingfisher, mallards
2/19- cow moose on road in Wilson
2/21- winter storm
2/23- bald eagle soaring over town
2/25- cow moose running on village road
2/28- eight deer sleeping under spruce in my backyard
This is the year to ski at Snow King, the local ski hill. It is perfectly located in downtown Jackson. By mid-February, sun reaches the hill and with a great base and more snow to come, it’s the year to visit! Backcountry skiing has been awesome but you need a plan and knowledge of terrain and avalanches. Teton Backcountry Tours, Exum and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides offer guided trips. Our winter wildlife + snowshoe tour has been quite popular and participants have even seen wolves! Check out the tour options: The Hole Hiking Experience. You can’t beat a day in Grand Teton Park so if sunny head to Taggert trailhead but if stormy Granite Canyon offers more shelter and closer to town. Have fun and be safe! Bears will start moving around in March so start to carry bear spray as you venture into the backcountry.