GET OUT: Winter Angst

By on February 16, 2016

A quick list of adventures for when the itch for warmer days hits.

For those seeking alternatives to the valley’s enduring winter: Beat cold weather fatigue with a picnic in the park or a climb at the Rock Springs Buttress. (Photo: bree buckey)

For those seeking alternatives to the valley’s enduring winter: Beat cold weather fatigue with a picnic in the park or a climb at the Rock Springs Buttress. (Photo: Bree Buckley)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – It’s a frigid February morning as I chase the beam of my headlamp in the glittering twilight. A faint light in the horizon offers the first sign of daylight. My muscles burn from the relentless grade of the 1,655-foot boot pack, and I wiggle my fingers inside my gloves to regain circulation. I visualize the buoyant feeling I will soon experience skiing down the fluffy eiderdown precious to powder seekers. Frost crystallizes on my hair and eyebrows; I crave a cup of coffee from Pearl Street Bagels at the base of Teton Pass. Just as the sky radiates into a sea of tropical colors, I arrive to the top of Mount Glory. I couldn’t be happier.

Twenty hikes later and I will admit that even I, one of Jackson Hole’s many captivated, adrenaline-driven outdoor junkies, become bored from a long winter of skiing. My hunger for powder is eventually filled to the brim; my tolerance for avalanche forecast conversation is exhausted, and my body craves new excitement.

If you share my impatience, or if you are someone who has yearned for warmer days since November, never fear. While it’s still winter, warming spring temperatures present the opportunity to reinvent your routine. After all, there are other ways to soak up vitamin D in the valley without grinding up another skin track.

Bike to brunch on the lake

After indulging in a scenic drive to the northern entrance of Grand Teton National Park, trade four wheels for two, bundle up (don’t forget insulated mittens to fight the windchill breaking against your phalanges), and bike to the Signal Mountain boat launch on Jackson Lake. When the air temperatures are right, this oasis serves as my favorite picnic table in the valley. Brew up a piping cup of coffee, enjoy a pre-made quiche or muffin, and finish off with a leisurely walk onto the frozen surface of the lake. If you feel like amping up your afternoon adventure, bring along some ice skates. Enjoy the sound of your skates slicing the ice as you glide toward Mount Moran on a sequestered skating tour of the Tetons.

Snowmobile to warmer waters

Hold on tight as the roar of your snowmobile engine echoes throughout the snow-blanketed Granite Creek wilderness. Remote peaks will cascade in your vision as your body bobs in conjunction with a jerky ride to natural and manmade hot springs.

Before you slink across the shallow, yet frigid rock bridge of Granite Creek, remove your myriad layers to reveal your sun-deprived skin and prepare to gingerly tiptoe into the piping spring. While soaking in a pool of heavenly warm water, contrasted by biting temperatures, remember that your sulfur-infused relaxation is only half of the experience. On your journey out, take time to sneak off the trail and challenge your ‘biling skills in a field of weightless powder. Create memories in the sun-kissed wilderness, and let the deep groan of your sled drown out thoughts of tomorrow’s obligations.

Ski to climb

OK, so this might still involve skiing, but purely for accessibility reasons. Arguably the best granite rock in Jackson Hole, the Rock Springs Buttress outside the southern gates of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, offers both sport and traditional climbing routes. And despite the actual air temperature, a cloudless bluebird day will allow you to absorb the sun’s rays and climb in comfort. Take a ride to the top of the world on the tram then carve down Rendezvous Bowl with an uncomfortably hefty pack full of climbing gear. Then trade your ski boots for climbing shoes, and take special care to keep everything as dry as possible.

While climbing is a sport of adrenaline, patience and focus, surprise will be an added emotion to your day when a paraglider swoops beside you on their aerial tour, or when the sound of a ski etching against the sun-crusted snow vertically echoes 300 feet to your roped-up body.

A few more

Sure, Jackson will forever be a winter lover’s paradise, but you don’t have to stick to the slopes to have an adventure-filled day during the wintry months. Cruise on a fat bike through Cache, hike up Snow King’s boot pack and take the chairlift down, take an endorphin-releasing walk along the Snake, or embark on a photo tour of the valley, hitting the Elk Refuge, GTNP during the day and Town Square at night. PJH

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