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Spring Skiing and Snow Travel

Spring backcountry skiing is still good, and the newly opened park road makes it easier to get further into the alpine environment, amidst snow-clad peaks. You might have to hike a little before you get to snow, but the next few weeks should deliver a relatively short approach. You’ll be rewarded with more solitude than most of the summer.

Here are some tips for heading out into the snowy mountains:

• Conditions (and timing) are everything! Getting an early start will help you travel on firm snow as much as possible on the way up. If you’re skiing, time it so you’re on top when things start to soften, giving the best ride down!

• Watch overnight temperatures. High (well above freezing) temperatures overnight are an indicator that snow probably didn’t set up well. This means soft snow for travel, the potential for punching through thin spots, and increased avalanche danger.

• Watch for rockfall! Springtime in the Tetons brings increased rockfall. Lots of melt/freeze can cause rocks to loosen and fall, particularly as the day warms up. Getting hit by falling rocks is the main danger, but in severe cases, large rocks can cause avalanches too.

• Ice axes may be a necessity for snow travel.  As snow firms up, ice axes may become necessary for traveling across steep snow slopes where an uncontrolled slide is possible. This includes climbing routes, as well as trails and divides on well traveled park trails. Self arrest is a life-saving technique – get instruction,  practice like your life depends on it!

• Solo travel is risky. Traveling in the backcountry with solid partners increases chances of a self-rescue in event of an injury. Whether getting out there with others, or by yourself, tell someone where you’re going!