I’ll Take A Pass

I’ve experienced a lot of different types of daily commutes throughout my career. From snarled traffic jams on the Long Island Expressway (often referred to as the “world’s largest parking lot”), to commuter train delays on Metro North going to Manhattan. Nothing could have prepared me for the white knuckled trip my wife takes daily from Victor to Jackson, which involves summiting the Teton Pass. In good weather, it can be a delight to the senses. With picturesque early morning sunrises creating an un-imaginable array of colors splashed against the distant mountains. Or the experience of witnessing a moose slowly meandering across the road. But in inclement weather, such as after a frequent snowfall, the drive more closely resembles the experience of a luge run at an Olympic venue. 

The serpentine road that leads cars single file up and over the 8,431 foot summit of the Teton Pass is quite the adrenaline rush. One summer day as I was driving my car listening to a local radio station. It aired a call out to local residents that a truck loaded with Idaho potatoes had failed to negotiate one of the rather steep hairpin turns on the Pass, and had over turned, dumping its load of spuds on the roadway. Fortunately the driver was fine, but the authorities were inviting residents to come help the cleanup effort, and get free potatoes. 

I remember running into friends of ours from the East Coast, who had moved to Jackson years earlier but who I thought also owned a parcel of land on the opposite side of the Pass in Victor, Idaho. I asked if they had plans to build on the Victor lot, and the wife replied “oh no, we sold that a while ago.” When I asked why they had sold it, the wife had a two word response. “The Pass”.

But actually the truth is, the Pass is the bomb. What an amazing feature that blesses the residents of our community. I have never seen anything like it that attracts such a buzz of activity. On any given winter day, especially a day after an epic snow dump, the roadway leading up the pass is a virtual non-stop flow of ski enthusiasts. Making their way up the Pass to experience a type of skiing that no resort could offer.

I can’t say that I am a regular backcountry skier (more of a wannabe, living vicariously through the stories and experiences of more able skiers) but I have had a few ventures atop the pass.

One common trip involves parking on top of the pass and hiking with your skies or snowboard on your back up to the top of “Glory” (10,086 feet).  If you’re a strong hiker (I’m Not), it could take 40 to 50 minutes to get to the summit of Glory. I consider it a success just to get there, period. I try not to time how long it takes me, as that would only make me feel worse, and the altitude is already doing a good job of that on it’s own. The ski routes down are infinite, and many ski all the way to the valley floor of either the Idaho or Wyoming side, to then hitch hike back up to their cars.

Summer hiking or biking off the Pass is breathtakingly beautiful. Few experiences can match that of visiting the mountain lakes or the peaks over-looking the valleys below and distant mountain ranges.

For all it’s ups and downs – I’ll take a Pass.

Backcountry Skier Heading Out
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Snowboarder Summitting a High Peak in Teton National Forest