PLANET Pick: Up your backcountry game

By on February 17, 2015
Chairlift crowd: Jason Hummel

(Photo: Jason Hummel)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – The backcountry is an increasingly popular place these days. As the valley plays host to unseasonably warm temps and azure skies (climate change, anyone?), more folks are venturing out in search of powder. Current conditions here mean that it is perhaps the perfect time to take part in the nation’s most popular backcountry festival, Vertfest, which makes its inaugural stop in Jackson Hole at Snow King this weekend. After all, living to ski another day should be the number one goal on every backcountry user’s list.

“This is the first time Jackson has hosted an event targeted specifically at the backcountry community,” said Keely Herron, Snow King marketing director.

The festival kicks off on Friday evening with a screening of “Pretty Faces,” a new groundbreaking all-women’s ski film made by local big mountain pro skier and Vertfest featured athlete Lynsey Dyer, who will present the film. Herron said Dyer’s connection to the backcountry community and the role she has played as a trailblazer getting young girls and women involved in outdoor sports made her a natural choice. Dyer’s nonprofit, She Jumps, partnered with the festival to help shape Vertfest’s local programming and focus.

A fundraiser for Snow King’s volunteer ski patrol, Vertfest will host Rando Rally, an uphill ski race, on Saturday, which includes 4,000 feet of on- and off-piste skinning and boot packing and a cash prize purse.

Ski and avalanche clinics, gear expos and demos, and plenty of après opportunities (food, brews and beats) are also on tap.

Happy skier: Brian Becker

(Photo: Brian Becker)

Seasoned pros from Exum, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and the American Avalanche Institute will lead clinics on ski mountaineering, steep skiing, travelling in avalanche terrain and ski mountaineering racing. Clinics cost $45 and include a lift ticket. Herron said these morning and afternoon clinics are of particular value to both backcountry experts and beginners who are interested in exploring terrain beyond resort boundary lines.

“As backcountry touring numbers grow, it’s important that people are educated on the very real avalanche dangers that exist and how to read terrain and stay safe,” Herron said. “We’ve seen that – especially in an environment like Jackson where people are so accustomed to being in a high-risk alpine environment – complacency and lack of awareness can lead to some pretty serious situations. We want to keep backcountry safety at the forefront of the conversation and ensure that people are taking calculated risks and making smart choices.”

Vertfest, a backcountry festival

When: Friday and Saturday 

Where: Snow King Resort

Wallet: $5 suggested donation for screening of Pretty Faces, 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. screening, Friday at Snow King’s Grand Ballroom; $45 for clinics on Saturday

Info: www.snowkingmountain.com/vertfest/

 

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About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine and former editor of Planet Jackson Hole. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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