Nothing like a little altitude gain to both humble and inspire at the same time.
A recent project had resulted in the acquisition of a Burton S-Series splitboard and I took it out on its maiden voyage yesterday in Jackson. Snow King is the local in-town hill up there and in spite of the recent warm temps and sun, there’s still a good stretch of snow stretching from summit to parking lot. After a couple hours at the Boardroom getting the bindings and skins dialed, CB and I drove over and started skinning up. Sitting at my desk for as long as I have, I quickly felt the effects of too little exercise as we gained altitude. I kept up pretty well for the first three-quarters of the climb, but soon had to slow down and take frequent breathers as my lungs kept trying to exit through my mouth. The snow had been falling off and on all morning, but the clouds parted during the ascent and kept things pretty warm. There were a few spots were we had to boot pack along the cat track – things are melting out pretty quickly now – but we soon crested the summit ridge and were greeted with a wide panoramic view of the valley and the mountains on the other side of the King. The wind was blowing pretty stiff, but it felt good after having shuffled up in the sun.
Pull skins, eat some cashews, gloves on… I managed to convert back to ride mode pretty easily, but it took a good 700 feet of descent before I felt comfortable enough—and capable of—linking any turns. It was a bit icy up top and the steep angle made me a bit hesitant, which resulted in quite a bit of scraping and butt-sliding, but I was grinning through it all, just to be out and winded and in the process of it all. The boots I was riding were my older La Sportivas, but they’re just not quite right for this. They did great going up, but aren’t stiff enough for my liking on the way down, and were pretty uncomfortable going toe-side. There’s still some adjustments I’ll need to do to the board setup. I think my stance could be a bit wider as it was tougher than normal initiating toe-side turns on the steep sections. It’s definitely a bit heavier than other setups I’ve used, but not worth worrying about. The older Burton interface was a little problematic though. My left binding popped off a couple of times, which hopefully was just a result of not pushing down the locking tab far enough. Other than that it was a great ride down, considering it was only the second time I’ve boarded this season (sigh). Once we were left with about 700 feet to go the angle softened up and I was able to feel a bit more relaxed and managed to sync up my turns all the way to the grass.
Overall? The best 1500′ lunch I’ve had in a long time. A definite eye-opener towards future trips and possibilities, as well as my current fitness levels. There’s still plenty of terrain to explore up at Teton Pass this spring, and it was a good kick in the pants to get out of my office/cell and do what I know makes me truly happy.