March begins with deep snow and blue skies in Jackson Hole. Yet even with the wintry landscape, you can feel that spring is in the air. February was a very stormy, snowy month. The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort recorded 463 inches at its mid-mountain snow station (elevation 9,580 feet) bringing this year’s snow level above the annual average of 400 inches. It looks like green summer meadows are in our future.
This time of the year is challenging for wildlife who have to burn more calories moving through the deep snow. As much as we love to play in the powder, we must remember the local slogan: “Don’t poach the powder” and respect wildlife closures. It’s crucial to allow wildlife room to roam without human disturbance and unneeded stress.
Local — Old Man Winter Releases His Grip
At a northern latitude of 43 degrees, we experience long, dark days in winter as the sun’s angle becomes more shallow in the sky. By March, the days become noticeably longer and the angle of light intensifies once again spurring change— the wonders of spring!
I recently traveled out of the valley and was met by red-winged blackbirds, sparrows and raptors as soon as we reached the wind-swept open terrain of the Snake River plains. A Jackson local told me that red-winged blackbirds can already be heard along the Gros Ventre River. As Old Man Winter releases his grip, daily changes will occur and soon the birds that we saw will arrive here to nest. Keep an eye out for migrating birds and the sounds of spring!
Listen to the Red-Winged Blackbird »
Regional — Studying the Snowpack
This winter’s snowfall produced a weak layer that has caused numerous deadly slides, or avalanches, across eight states. Sadly, over 25 deaths occurred in the West. Twenty-one of those occurred since January 30. Avalanche danger became extreme in the Tetons and lives were lost here as well. We mourn those lives lost and are reminded of the power of nature.
Even the most prepared backcountry travelers can run into trouble. It is critical to become familiar with the snowpack and learn how to safely travel in mountainous terrain. Check out the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Forecast for weather forecasts, snow data, recent avalanche events and much more. It’s always a good idea to take an avalanche safety course and remember the local slogan, “know before you go.”
Spirit — Mending Our Relationship With Nature
One of the silver linings of this pandemic is our renewed connection with nature. Many of us have turned to nature to reduce stress levels, improve mental health, and stay physically active. Yet our relationship with nature and ecosystems contributed to the existence of the pandemic in the first place. What can we learn from this?
“The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 joins a long and growing list of animal pathogens that threaten human health,” says WWF president and CEO Carter Roberts. “This tragic story of zoonotic diseases is, at its core, the story of our broken relationship with nature.”
Zoonotic disease is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen that has jumped from an animal to a human. Our encroachment on nature with development, livestock, and climate change is tipping the scale in a negative way. It’s time to build a better relationship with nature in order to prevent next pandemic.
What’s in the Woods — Field Notes
2/3 (Wilson, WY) cow and calf moose
2/4 (Indian Trails) moose feeding on willow
2/5 (R Park) stormy day; cow moose feeding on bushes near Highway 22
2/9 (Snake River) mature bald eagle soaring over river
2/11 (Flat Creek) mature bald eagle, great blue heron
2/12 (Rendezvous Mountain) black rosy finches
2/15 winter storm
2/23 (Flat Creek) two American dippers
2/23 (Jackson Hole) high winds closed most valley roads
2/23 (Teton Village Road) cow and calf moose feeding along the cottonwoods
2/24 (Maple Way) four deer browsing
2/24 (Gros Ventre River) adult moose bedded in snow
2/27 (Teton Village, Teewinot) lone calf moose, sadly lost its’ mother
With the sunny days, it’s fun to get out in the valley for the views. Jenny Lake is a wonderful location to cross country ski beneath the majestic Teton peaks. Travel a bit further north to Colter Bay to enjoy the views along Jackson Lake and Hermitage Point. Make sure to pay attention to the temperatures since spring brings a wide range this time of year. If nights freeze and days are sunny, we may start a corn cycle. Oh, the joys of warm sun, longer days and the arrival of spring. Have fun!
Backcountry Travel Tip
Remember to carry bear spray as the bruins will soon awake from hibernation.