Report from February 23, 2022
Burning fingertips at 10,200′ as I scrunch my fingers into a ball inside the palms of my gloves.
The searing pain distracts me as my fingers rewarm and I stagger uphill.
I’m grinding up the ridge towards Cody Peak in the Teton Range, WY.
It’s -7ºF and a light breeze is all it takes to damn near freeze my fingers.
As the pain subsides, my awareness returns.
It’s gorgeous up here.
A light fog blowing in the from east gives the sunlight a surreal glow.
My mind spins as I realize I’m going to ski Pucker Face.
A very close college ski team buddy of mine, Mike, passed away in an avalanche on this face in December 2013.
For years, I didn’t ski this face at all, no matter the avalanche danger nor conditions – I just kept walking.
Today, knowing I’ll ski it my brain wobbles with emotion.
There are people all around, including some friends I made on the tram ride up, but I am alone.
I click into my skis, stand atop Pucker and talk to Mike.
No one’s yet skied the main face of Pucker.
I have it to myself.
The avalanche danger is rated Moderate at this elevation for this day and I see a wind-deposited whale of snow to my right.
“Better avoid that thing,” I think.
I envision my line, work my hands back and forth like Olympic ski racers do before their downhill run.
“Dropping in 3, 2, 1.”
The first turns are creamy and good.
I look over my shoulder after the 3rd turn to see no avalanche but a bit of sluff already starting to gain steam.
I’m outrunning it easily.
After 5 turns, the snow gets hooky and I start hitting the ice underneath.
I stick to my plan of 8-10 turns then hucking off the little rock donger in the middle of the face.
2 turns before I’m about to jump, my sluff catches up with me and scares me off the air.
Scratchy, firm, hooky, weird high-speed turns on the apron.
I speed into flatter terrain, feel the float of good snow again, and relax.
I’m pumped – another successful Pucker Face in the books and the bad knee I’ve been struggling with this season held up great.
From there I met up with an extremely fun friend named Grant.
We hiked forever to get to our next line and the snow was even better.
This run was less steep and a bit more north-facing making the snow better and deeper keeping us off the grinding ice below.
After this second run, I was tired.
The run back down to the real world was dust on crust, tracked, and fun in spots.
I jumped straight into my car and raged across the Wyoming desert back to Park City, UT where I had an appointment for a special knee brace the following day.
I saw 20 head of mule deer, 100 head of elk, and 1 elk down on the side of the road.
3 golden eagles were feasting on the elk and I spooked them as I approached.
One flew straight at my car.
I hit the brakes but didn’t swerve (never swerve for wildlife!).
I missed the eagle by about a foot.
It was simply freakin’ huge…
Golden eagles are bigger than bald eagles.
I would have felt terrible had I hit it…
I’ve seen all kinds of animals on this road: golden eagles, bald eagles, osprey, elk, mule deer, pronghorns, rabbits, and even a big ole badger one day.
I got pulled over going 80 in a 70 and only got a warning…
My 1st ever warning in my life.
I made it to Park City just as night was descending (never drive out here at night bc of the animals).
I had fasted this day and breakfast for dinner was great.
Utah was forecast to have a sunny powder day the following morning.
I’m not sure that I’ll be back this season.
Alaska on Sunday…