January weather was cold and snowy but annual snowfall lingers below average. We end the month at 84% of annual snowfall and a 76-inch base. The month brought a few good storms and valley snow is much deeper than last winter. When we do have periods of sun and high pressure, we usually get a temperature inversion, which means temperatures are warmer at upper elevations and colder on the valley floor. Playing in the mountains above the cold is a fun part of winter recreation in Jackson Hole.
With our proximity to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, the government shutdown pressures reach wide in our valley. Many people in our community have been affected by the shutdown. The month of February begins with a sense of relief with the government opening for three weeks.
As a National Forest and National Park permittee, The Hole Hiking Experience will submit needed paperwork in early February to keep in compliance with the rules and regulations of operating on federal lands. Wyoming Senator, Charlie Scott (R), has proposed a bill that will allow the state of Wyoming to seize federal lands if a shutdown occurs again. Since our tourist economy is heavily based on recreation on federal lands, a future shutdown will have a huge financial impact on our valley, especially if that occurs during our busy summer months. Current uncertainty has us all planning ahead.
The Snake River provides fun and beauty for recreationalists, but its true magic is in supporting all life in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Its headwaters, protected as a Wild and Scenic River, begin in Yellowstone where three small creeks converge on the Two Oceans plateau. It then winds its way majestically through Jackson Hole, joined by the Buffalo Fork, the Gros Ventre, and the Hoback rivers, then flows all the way to the Columbia River, and out to the Pacific Ocean.
Numerous species share the offerings of the river, year-round. As I drive over one of the bridges or along the river banks, I always look for birds and wildlife. Eagles, moose, elk, and deer frequent the river bottom during the winter months. I recommend to be alert as you travel near the Snake River because you never know what you might see along this wildlife corridor in our diverse ecosystem.
On a recent drive along the river corridor, a dark shadow caught my attention on the snow bank along the Teton Village Road (Highway 390). A garbage lid or bag? No, sadly, a dead moose calf. And being Friday, it would remain as a tragic reminder until Monday. Should I turn away or look and face this tragedy? My inclination was to turn away, but as I approached I chose to look. I wanted to acknowledge and honor this animal and its life, and to confront the human-wildlife conflict.
This road was built along the Snake River corridor, a prime moose habitat. There are many wildlife collisions on this road, so we have warning signs and cut-out moose silhouettes to make us more aware. The speed limit has been reduced at night but the moose are as black as the night. My heart is heavy but I am more aware and more conscious of life as I drive by and face this moose, honoring its life.
What’s in the woods
1/5 – National Elk Refuge: elk and TWO moose
1/5 – Triangle X: 30 bison!
1/6 – Highway 89/191: Bison, Moose, Elk, Deer
1/7 – Winter storm
1/11 – Highway 22: Snake River- Trumpeter Swan
1/12 – Highway 22: Snake River- Bald Eagle on pole
1/13 – Teton Village Road, Pony Lane: DEAD Moose calf
1/13 – Highway 22 near Snake River: two young bull elk
1/14 – Day three of valley inversion: below zero in valley and warm in mountains
1/17 – Winter storm
1/20 – Wilson, WY: cow and calf moose
1/30 – Clear and cold
At this time of the winter, tour options are endless as the valley snow is great. Skinny Skis, a local outdoor store, lists the seven best winter places to explore including Jenny Lake, Taggert Lake, and Phelps Lake in Grand Teton Park. They also mention the Moose-Wilson Road, which is near Teton Village and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. This is a great location for beginner snowshoe or cross-country ski tour. You also can’t beat a tour near Shadow Mountain, which offers unparalleled Teton views. Cache Creek, near the town of Jackson, is a beautiful choice as well. If you have a few days, try these options to see a few amazing views of Jackson Hole.