When faced with a new opportunity, the unknown is the scary part. That’s fear. Notice it, accept it, and then do it anyway. You won’t REALLY know unless you do it. You’re not going to be an expert the first time you do anything. But, your attitude is a choice. Always. Respond, don’t react. Learning to take situations in stride and control how you approach them is a skill that gets better the more you practice.
I’ve adopted a not-so-secret equation that guides how I operate in life. It centers around exposure, judgement/ decision making, and self awareness. Essentially, it is a 3 pronged repeating cycle; look, try, assess. Look toward something new, try it, assess how it went.
Work- however that looks to you. But work hard. Short term goals = long term impact. Set measurable goals and start crossing them off. Your perspective dictates what you think is possible. So, push your boundaries and keep redefining what “achievable” means to you. Look, try, assess. Exposure is everything. Challenge normal. Normal is safe. RISK forward and embrace opportunity.
It’s easier to change yourself than to change the world. And the best way to change the world is to change yourself.
That’s impact at scale. Big pictures are great, but they are scalable. The big picture is made up of the small details. This seems obvious, but often gets overlooked in our day-to-day lives.
If you want to paint a big picture, you have to start small. I believe in systems; behavior, patterns, routines. These dictate the realities we accept and live by. You can adjust your systems, and you should, just like you would with any other machine. You service your car regularly and you update your iPhone software regularly- treat your habits the same way. Solidify what works, and discard or change what doesn’t.
You should also question the data your process is giving you. Apply a lens of critical thinking. When you arrive at a conclusion, it’s not about believing in your answer or outcome. It’s about believing in the system that gave you your answer. Build a good operating system for yourself.
Walk through your day-to-day operating procedure in your mind in the context of happiness; are you happy? No, seriously… think about it. Are you?
Do you shape your life around your job or do you shape your job around your life? You can answer honestly, your boss can’t read your mind… yet.
If the answer to the initial question was yes, you’re happy, that’s great! Could you adjust the equation of things that make up what you have going on in life to make you even happier? Probably. If the answer to the first question was a resounding “no”, let’s aim to figure out why.
Take inventory of how you spend your time. Are there things you could eliminate from your day-to-day? Do it. If it’s not an obligation, use the “hell yes vs. no” strategy. Your friends ask you to join them for dinner on Thursday, but you have an important meeting on Friday morning and you’d rather run after work and go to bed early instead of go out on Thursday. If your answer to dinner isn’t a Hell Yes! its a no.
Everything in moderation, including moderation.
Didn’t exercise today? Ate a bunch of junk food? Didn’t get enough sleep? Drank too much alcohol? Watched too much Netflix? Didn’t answer all of your emails?
Wallowing in your negatives won’t make them better, and it will prevent you from using that brain space to come up with actionable steps to improve them.
Focus on the trend line. If your overall practices contribute to a positive trend line, you’re in good shape. Cut yourself some slack, too, by the way. If the trend line isn’t where you want it to be, start with slow, measurable change. Focus on one thing that you want to improve and then make a realistic plan on how to do it. So you want to exercise more. Start with one or two days a week. Want to watch less Netflix? If you watch Netflix at night before bed, try reading one night per week instead of watching Netflix (or insert other activity you like instead. Draw, play the guitar, write, play a board game with friends etc…) Those small changes will increase your trend line if you keep up with them. Be sure to tell yourself “good job” for the things you do well, too.
The trend line measurement tool applies to this axiom too: “If you like what you do, you won’t work a day in your life”. Great sentiment, but somewhat unrealistic. Work is unavoidable. If the “grunt work” contributes in part to an overall positive trend line of happiness, then count that as a win.
Is not loving your job ok? That answer may differ. If your job affords you a lifestyle you love, is it worth it to YOU?
Maybe you work a nine-to-five at a desk in an office. Your work is challenging, but rewarding. Its not your favorite, but it pays the bills. You enjoy your coworkers and you have room to grow at your company. Your nine-to-five allows you to comfortably afford to travel, go to concerts or events you like, work out at lunch in the gym at your office, and have time on weeknights to play trivia at your favorite bar.
This equation might work for YOU. Does it give you a life that you’re happy with? If yes, great!
If no, adjust your equation.
Maybe it means getting a new job! Maybe sitting at a desk isn’t your thing. Maybe you love painting. You might not be able to afford to paint full time right now, so you’ll have to work a job you don’t necessarily love so you can paint in your free time until you can afford to do it full time.
Maybe you love serving or bartending because it lets you interact with people. Great! Build your lifestyle around that.
Maybe you love skiing, and being in the mountains all day makes you happy. Work at a ski resort!
Everyone’s equation is different. You’re the only one who can change yours. If you remove the “but I’m supposed to”, what would you actually want to do?
Go do it.
Even if you don’t know who Daewon Song is, this documentary gives some really great insight into a legend in the world of skateboarding.
Daewon is an innovator. His creativity and overall approach are what set him apart from other skateboarders. Above all else, its entertaining to watch him skate. For example, these posts of his on Instagram:
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Have a great night #instafamily ! Today my empty @adidasskateboarding box with my old @spitfirewheels came in handy out back of @matixclothing HQ! And the miniramp had me just doing some old 80's early grab tricks and staying off my bad leg 😆. Filmed/edit by myself.. #watchthatego #ogslick /// 👟#adidas #shotoniphone
This film by Adidas skateboarding shines a light on his career and the tenacity it took to make a name for himself as a skateboarder. The film explores his friendship with Rodney Mullen, another skateboarding legend, and takes a look at their career journey through brand deals and the world of professional skateboarding. I’d definitely give the documentary a watch.
Posting and writing about snowboarding isn’t new for me; it’s kind of my favorite thing ever. Teaching snowboarding is a big part of my snowboarding world, and I don’t often post about it… so here we go.
I’ve been passionate about sliding on snow since I was two years old. That is when my mom had me click into skis for the first time. My aptitude for going fast took a short lived hiatus when I was seven and became a snowboarder because, well, I was new to it and I was a beginner all over again. This was a bit of a faux pas in my family; a family of proud, east coast SKIERS.
Fun fact: my first time snowboarding was in my snow-covered driveway. My first time snowboarding at a lift serviced mountain was at Ski Bradford in Massachusetts. Double fun fact: on my first run ever, I grabbed ahold of the rope-tow, immediately fell over and proceeded to get dragged uphill to my final (or starting) destination.
I’ve been sliding on snow for twenty three years now and have been teaching both snowboarding and skiing professionally for nine of those years.
What I love about snowboard instructing:
Working with people. I LOVE working with people. Snowboard instructing allows me to share my passion of snowboarding with people who demonstrate at least some (varying) level of interest in sliding on snow. BOOM. NEW BEST FRIENDS EVERY DAY.
I get to spend time with people from all walks of life who have a goal of improving their snowboarding so that they can enjoy the activity in their own life. Most of the time snowboarding is part of a trip or vacation for them, so the goal is always to have fun. My job is to make sure people are having fun… yeah, I know, but someone has to do it. Rest assured, I am equipped with an arsenal of dad jokes for the cause.
Each client has a different goal. Sometimes I work with moms who are on vacation with their kids and want to improve their skills so that they can keep up. Sometimes I work with people prepping for a heli-ski trip and want to work on their skills in steep terrain. Sometimes I work with dads who sit behind a desk and need to find their legs again. Sometimes I work with kids who want to learn tricks so that they can be the next Travis Rice, Danny Davis, or Red Gerard.
All of these clients want to achieve something different and it is my job to facilitate their growth in the direction of their goals, in a way that works best for them. The tool that I am tasked with deploying for all of these individual’s success can be boiled down to a term called “movement analysis”. It is my job to be able to see what someone is doing while they are riding and be able to identify what body movements are making their board perform the way that it is. From there, I need to know what will improve their riding, and be able to create and implement a lesson plan that will push them toward their goals- adapting on the fly throughout the time we spend together.
The lightbulb. The best part of my job is when one of my clients has a breakthrough moment and looks at me with the “I DID IT” face.
Playing. We talked about fun earlier. Laughing, joking around, challenging ourselves, good snow, good weather, good food, and a well earned après scene; those are factors to the fun equation… but they aren’t the whole thing. Making learning fun can be as easy as setting the example as an instructor. Snowboarding isn’t school, and it isn’t rigid. Letting it flow and playing around on my snowboard means that I’m having fun, and it leads to fun-having on my clients behalf as well. It can also lead to new goals if they see something that they want to learn.
Case study: Julian
Julian is a very athletic young ripper that had never been to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (@jacksonhole) before and wanted to learn to ride more challenging terrain while integrating some freestyle elements into his riding.
Some things that we focused on:
Safety- being aware of other skiers and riders, choosing safe and appropriate terrain, making sure the coast is clear in the terrain park, and calling our “drop” (letting others know that it’s our turn to go into the jumps). See SMART style here.
Riding– Julian uses an athletic stance and bent knees to absorb terrain, and to align himself throughout his turns. It is very clear to see in the videos that he has upper and lower body separation; his lower body can control the turning and direction of the board while his upper body maintains a balanced position even in difficult terrain (an example would be the moguls he rode). This is an advanced move, and will set him up to continue to grow into a great snowboarder.
Some things we can continue to work on include keeping his upper body and shoulders taller/ upright while simultaneously bending his knees with the goal of eliminating the hunched over body position he reverts to in more challenging terrain. I used treading water as an example for him, being that he is a swimmer. I encouraged him to think of keeping his head and shoulders out of the water while his legs bend and move independently beneath him. Another way we thought about this was to think about keeping his chin up (literally; adjusting his head upward a bit more will pull his shoulders and chest into alignment as well).
This focus on body alignment will help him out tremendously when working toward more challenging terrain, especially as he adds in more freestyle elements to his riding such as jumps, grabs, and spins. I tested this out with his “flatland 360’s” (spinning on the ground). He did great! Next steps would be to work on keeping his head up instead of looking down, and getting his body alignment more upright and less hunched over.
Snowboarding is fun. Clients like Julian who are willing to try, and who are in it to have a great time make snowboard coaching fun.
Planning a trip to Jackson Hole? Interested in snowboarding on that trip? Give me a holler and let’s make some turns in pow town!
The square, gray rack of puzzle pieced plates slides into position and I once again lower the lid of the industrial dish washer. The jets whir to life on a mission to provide clean plates for the line cooks so that they, in turn, could serve food to high class tourists enjoying the night life of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. While the water churns in the dishwasher, I have just enough time to fire off a text before resuming the never-ending scrubbing ritual that precedes the puzzle piecing and loading of the plates into the dishwasher. The text is simple, yet effective, and will be enough to set the plan in motion since I won’t be able to text back until I close and lock up around 12:15am. “DP 25? Solid forecast… Avy?”.
If he doesn’t have to work, Ryan will be stoked to dawn patrol at 25 Short. A dawn patrol means to hike at sunrise, and to a backcountry skier or snowboarder it means a really early start for a quiet morning of fresh turns before the rest of the world wakes up. 25 Short is a backcountry ski route in Grand Teton National Park having earned its name because its false summit sits just twenty five feet below 10,000ft of elevation at 9,975 ft. The route also offers access to a bunch of different terrain options to ride down, making it a good starting point for a route selection that could change based on the conditions of the day. Given the new snow, recent avalanche forecast, and virtually complete absence of tourists, that’s where I want to be.
I’d assumed my post in the dish pit around 4:45pm after taking the bus from the mountain back to my car and driving over. I had been used to the tight squeeze, but working doubles allows for a few days off every week and my 3 day weekend officially starts tomorrow. I’d been at the mountain since shortly after 8am to make the journey from the parking lot up to my locker, get my gear and uniform on, and get down to the chairlift to meet my client at 9am. The base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is affectionately called the village, but during peak tourist time periods it feels more like a city. Knowing where to go once up on the mountain and off of the crowded base makes it feel like your own isolated paradise. My client and I wrapped up just shy of 4pm when the chairlifts close, and I did my usual mad-dash back to the locker room and then down to the parking lot to catch the bus amidst the overflowing crowd of people also commuting from the mountain back toward town on the one road that connects the two.
Swigging my shifty, my complementary beer for diligently performing my illustrious dish sanitation duties for the evening, I rid myself of my smock and pull out my phone with my pruned fingers. Ryan had responded, “Ya dude, I am IN!”. I knew he’d be excited. Our days off don’t always line up, but we occasionally get the chance to take an early lap or two before work. Tomorrow, neither of us has to be back in a rush. “Sweet man, I’ll peep the avy report and give another holler around 5am”.
I finally pull into my driveway around 12:35am, thankful that I hadn’t left my snowboard boots or my goggles in my locker in the village. Definitely haven’t done that before…
As I walk inside I routinely begin laying out my gear. I place my jacket and mid-layer hoodie on the rack by the door, and then make my way across the living room to put my boots, hat, gloves, and glove liners in the hallway in front of the heater. Turning, I pluck my blue and white Jones splitboard from our apartment’s gear closet that overflows into our living room and onto the couch. The gaudy green, faux leather couch is accompanied by a futon, both picked up at furniture swaps. They allow our living room to transform into a hostel for frequent vacation visits from friends of mine or of my roommates.
I’ve made it a habit to pack and ready my gear the night before going out so that I don’t have to do a million and one things at 4:30 in the morning when I’m groggier than the subject of an allergy medication commercial.
Unclipping the bindings, I separate the splitboard into its two-plank mode, pivoting and then reattaching the bindings to complete the transformation from snowboard to skis. I affix my climbing skins to the bottoms of each split ski and then lash the skis together with a voile strap in a neat bundle with my poles. Climbing skins are like magical little pieces of carpet that you put on the bottom of your skis or board so that they grip the snow and allow you to walk uphill like you’re snowshoeing. (Once at the top, you take off and stow the skins in your backpack, clip the board back together, and then totally surf that sweet pow pow down the mountain, bruh.)
I try not to wake up my roommates as I make my way upstairs to retrieve my avalanche airbag so that I can pack it with my beacon, probe, shovel, and gear for the morning. I check the batteries of my avalanche beacon the night before too, because if I need to replace them, I’d rather know that now rather than when trying to get out the door.
An avalanche beacon is a Gameboy-sized transmitter that lets you find other transmitters, and lets them find you. You wear it on your body so that if buried in an avalanche, people can find you and dig you out. For those same reasons, I carry a collapsible tent pole-like item called a probe to poke through the snow and hopefully come into contact with a buried person, marking their location. And that’s also why I carry a collapsible shovel; to dig out that buried person from the probe’s marked position.
In my backpack you’ll find a medical kit with extra athletic tape, band-aids, and mole-skin for blisters caused by ski or snowboard boots. More often than not, these get used by other people instead of me, but I carry them because most people don’t. Depending on the day and what I need, you’ll also find:
- 2 liters of water
- a knife
- a compass
- a repair kit
- an emergency space blanket
- a foldable SAM splint for potential injuries
- extra emergency energy bars
- a multi tool
- extra parts for snowboard bindings
- extra snowboard boot laces
- walkie talkies
- a notebook
- mechanical pencils
- a snow saw
- a couple of beers
- an extra base layer
- and extra mid layer
- extra goggle lenses
- an extra neck buff
- an external battery pack for my phone in case of emergency
- my DSLR camera to, ya know, totally get the shot bro
I’ll also bring a coffee thermos, caffeine free tea, and sports drink mix for the car. Probably some La Croix too. (I consume a lot of beverages, OK?)
Lastly before bed I lay out my clothes for the morning. Yeah, really. It saves time and I’m a zombie before I have my coffee.
* * *
My phone’s surge to life forces my own and I slowly move across the floor to silence the radiating alarm. 4:30am on the dot. I flip the light on and sit down on the edge of my bed for a minute. A few deep breaths, a slap in the face, and an elongated “fuck” exhaled under my breath combat my urge to lie back down. That, and the plans I had already made with Ryan. I do that intentionally on my days off so that I escape from people up into the mountains instead of downstairs onto my couch.
Tossing on a pair of sweatpants and a sweat shirt I make my way downstairs, round the corner at the bottom, and pass the hallway heater and my gear, stepping off of the carpet and onto the cold tile of the kitchen floor en route to the coffee maker. Hitting light switches along the way, my groggy movements are methodical, calculated, and rehearsed. I have to pee; but I grind the coffee beans first, fill the pot with water, slap the ON button and then start boiling more water for oatmeal. Now, I head toward the bathroom while the coffee pot and tea kettle do their thing. Efficiency- no wasted steps.
Sitting at the kitty-cornered kitchen table next to the hallway door, I eat my bowl of oatmeal with a banana and peanut butter while I read over the avalanche report on my laptop. A few different weather sites are also bookmarked in my browser and I open all of them in order, reading and comparing the information for different elevations and locations nearby. I send the text to Ryan at 5:05am, “Looking good. New layer seems moderately stable so far and the flakes are still falling”.
“Copy that. Lets do it!”
“Meet at the home ranch parking lot at 5:30? I can drive”
“Word. See ya there”
Finished eating, I guzzle the rest of my coffee and then fill my travel mug right up to the brim and set it on the counter. I work through a quick stretching routine in the living room and then head upstairs to put my snowboarding clothes on, now that I’m awake and semi-functioning.
Once my snow pants are on I check my beacon again before stowing it in my pocket. Back downstairs I step into my work boots without tying them, pull my hood up over my beanie, and crack the door to head out to my car. The chill of the pre-dawn air stings my eyes and slithers up my nose and into my throat. I exhale and feel my breath twinge the ends of my mustache and beard as the vapor freezes crisply to the hair on my face. I crack a smile in the darkness and step out into the snow to go start my car so it can warm up and melt some of the fresh white fluff off of my windshield.
* * *
The parking pull out is empty except for a couple of other cars. “They’re here early”, Ryan noted as we both looked at the fresh tire tracks in the snow curving ahead to the parked cars. “Must be tackling a pretty big objective if they’re trying to get up high ahead of the sun” I added.
Sunshine and warmer temperatures during the day melt snow at elevation faster and create higher risk for avalanche, kind of like the snow that heats up and slides off of the roof of your house. So, the longer your hike to where you want to go, the earlier you have to start if you want to minimize your risk of triggering or being swept in a slide.
Leaving the car is always the hardest part for me. Not because I don’t want to go snowboarding, but because it’s likely the coldest I’ll be all day. I’m dressed for hiking, which means I’m dressed to be hot and sweaty even though I’m not yet. All of my extra layers are stowed in my backpack and I’m about to put my snowboard boots on while trying not to step in the snow with my socks. Lacing up snowboard boots with non-gloved hands is always a time sensitive challenge as well. When I’m done, I strap into my bindings and hoist my pack onto my back. The sun isn’t up yet, but the morning light is starting to dimly illuminate the jagged silhouette of the Tetons above us.
I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of looking at the Tetons. The impressive mountain range is 40 miles long, 8 miles wide, and stands a whopping 13,770ft tall at the summit of the Grand; the tallest peak of the bunch. The Grand also sits just off-center of the panoramic mountainscape, and the sharp edges of the other staggered rock summits almost look like the snaggle-toothed jawline of a shark.
Despite the subtle morning light, we still need our headlamps, and I stab my poles into the snow beside me to adjust mine beneath my hood. The poles go into the powdery snow with ease; no crust layer on top of the snow’s surface, no mushy, clumped slush below the surface. Just soft, aerated champagne. I look over at Ryan and see that he’s doing a few Michael Phelps arm swings to get the blood flowing to warm up his hands. His head lamp is inadvertently pointed toward my eyes and I can’t make out his face in the darkness behind the light. But I can see his breath rising in front of the bulb while he’s moving his arms. “Dude you look like you’re in a Nike commercial right now”, I say. “Huh?”, he doesn’t get it. I mimic his motion, and my headlamp creates the same effect. Now he gets it and we both laugh.
Holy shit this is going to be a good day.
I tell Ryan where I stashed my keys in case anything happens and he needs to access them in an emergency. Next, we test our walkie talkies and turn our avalanche beacons on, checking to make sure that each beacon detects the other.
It is now 6am and I get to press one more button before we depart, and this one is my favorite: airplane mode.
It usually takes a few steps to get into the rhythm of slip sliding forward on a splitboard or skis with skins on the bottoms. You push off of one foot and gently glide onto the other in a half walking, half rollerblading motion. The silence of the morning is only broken by the clicking of our bindings and the creaking of compressed snow beneath our strides. That, and the shuffle of our hard-shell pants and jackets as we move swiftly through the darkness. The elevation of the parking lot where we left my car sits at about 6,625 ft, and it will take us about three and a half hours to climb the 3,000 feet of elevation to the saddle of 25 Short.
As we climb further from the parking lot and into the trees, the growing light dances past the snow flakes and lingers on the tree branches; highlighting the sparkling crystals already settled on the frozen limbs. We weave our way upward, steam escaping from the open vents in our jackets and rising above our heads and shoulders, though our breath and pace remain steady. My shell pants have vents from the upper thigh to the mid-calf on the inside and outside of each leg, and since my body is a furnace, I tend to hike with those cranked open, especially as we reach higher elevation and steeper slopes.
These steeper slopes require a “Z” style zig zagging path up the mountain. The path we’re making is called a skin track, and the diagonals criss crossing the slope are called switchbacks. We aren’t saying much to one another and we don’t need to. The snow has subsided and the clouds have been burning off with the dawn. Since we’ve been hiking up towards, and into, the Tetons, emerging onto the ridge means that the rising sun at our backs is now highlighting the prominent peaks in front of us in a golden array. Poking out above tree line also means a pause for rest, food, and water. For me, that’s dark chocolate covered almonds and some trailmix. But I’m mostly psyched about the dark chocolate covered almonds.
We both like the silence and the solitude. It is a welcomed oasis in a world away from the tourists in town and at the resort. I smile there too, genuinely excited to share my love of snowboarding with clients. I take pride in my work and appreciate the opportunity to connect with people from many places and all walks of life.
But this; the stillness of this moment. The serenity of this space. This place is void of time and of the stressors and pressures of life. This world is mine, if only for a bit.
I toss Ryan one of the PBR tall boys I’d stashed in my pack. He cracked it and slurped the foam off the top.
We sit. And we stare. Eyes wide, the corners of our mouths pulled back into closed smiles.
“Cheers to airplane mode”
Home of the Tetons, Jackson, Wyoming, boasts access to some of the most iconic mountains in the world, making it a mecca for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
The town of Jackson sits just 30 minutes outside of both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. If that wasn’t enough, Snowking Ski Resort is located in downtown Jackson, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort resides in Teton Village (technically just outside of Jackson in Wilson, WY), and Grand Targhee Ski Resort is just on the other side of Teton Pass. Teton Pass itself boasts some of the most well-known backcountry ski access in the country, and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has been voted the best ski area in North America more than once while averaging about 459″ of snowfall annually.
Jackson Hole’s geographic location plays a very large role in this, as it is located at the feet of the Grand Tetons. While many natural elements contribute to the valley’s pristine reputation as an aesthetic masterpiece, the natural icon most synonymous with Jackson are the Tetons.
With natural capital residing at its core, the community simply orbits around it.
There are over 300 different species of birds in Grand Teton National Park, and six different species of hoofed mammals. The seven species of coniferous trees are dwarfed in comparison to the 900 different species of flowering plants that thrive within the park’s boundaries. It is these amenities of the greater Jackson community that make it indisputably unique.
Humans may have grown keen to Wyoming’s hidden gem, but the environment’s flourishing success is nothing new to the plants and animals who have prospered long before they were forced to share with us.
Although Jackson is a community that thrives on tourism, hosting an ebb and flow of people constantly coming and going, there is an underlying current of connectivity among locals.
“Ski towns” across North America are notorious for being dominated by the male population. Jackson is no exception. With a total population of 9,967, people between age 20 and age 40 account for a whopping 32% of the entire population. Half of that 32% is made up of people between age 25 – 29 alone. And of the roughly 1,600 people in that age bracket, 1,000 of them are in fact, male.
The summers arguably see the largest flow of tourists due to the operating season of the National Parks. Additionally, summer time in Jackson means mountain biking, white water boating on the Snake River, fly fishing, and rock climbing in the Tetons (perhaps with the Exum Mountain Guides, America’s oldest guiding service). Winters also attract an influx of visitors on ski vacations, but both spring and fall feature major lulls in activity that cause an economic lapse for the town and its locals.
The upper class clientele that Jackson attracts does not accurately represent the average working-class resident. Jackson’s tourism-reliant economy means a booming service industry supported by locals, which includes a lot of immigrants. (Check out the film The Quiet Force)
The high-profile status that owning a home in Jackson comes with means that a lot of out-of-towners own million dollar homes in the area, but don’t regularly occupy them year-round. Sometimes they don’t even visit these homes once during the year. Though, this is hardly an anomaly for tourism-based, destination towns.
With some of the highest property values in the United States, housing is a well-known issue for the working class of Jackson. There are simply not enough affordable housing options to go around for Jackson’s workforce and local populous.
“Even Free Land Won’t Solve The Housing Problem“, say’s John Spina of JH News and Guide.
“By providing land already owned by the town or county where a private developer could construct affordable housing, April Norton, executive director of the Jackson/Teton County Affordable Housing Department, hopes to keep the government out of the development business, reduce public subsidies and, most importantly, see housing built” (Spina, JH News & Guide).
The “free” (already owned land) that Norton is focusing on sounds like a great place to start. It doesn’t, however, seem to counterbalance the high construction costs and required deed restrictions that make it hard to utilize the “free land”.
The appeal of visiting, or living in, Teton county makes total sense.
Jackson’s luxury tourism industry and outdoor recreation opportunities collectively make it a landmark destination to anyone and everyone from professional skiers, mountain bikers, climbers, kayakers, and fly fishing enthusiasts, to high class tourists, families, and national park visitors from around the world.
Its completely fitting that action sports media company, Teton Gravity Research, set its roots in the community with its headquarters located in Wilson at the bottom of Teton Pass. Other outdoor industry companies like Stio, Mountain Khakis, and Croakies are Jackson locals, too.
Backcountry skiing and snowboarding are at the cultural core of Jackson, WY.
“Backcountry” is defined as “sparsely inhabited rural areas; wilderness”. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers some of the best in-bounds skiing in the world, but because of the geographic marvel that are the Tetons, the terrain available for out-of-bounds skiing and snowboarding draw a lot of people to go exploring via ski touring (hiking to ski or snowboard without use of chairlifts).
The backcountry ski scene of Jackson is lively and robust. It is a facet of skiing and snowboarding that requires a different set of knowledge and skills than in-bounds skiing; mostly to do with avalanche safety and medical skills in case of emergency. As a result, there are a certain set of cultural codes embedded within this community that revolve around etiquette and behavior.
Learning from friends and locals is cool, but acquiring backcountry knowledge and skills largely takes place through avalanche awareness courses through AIARE, backcountry basics courses through JH Mountain Guides, and wilderness first responder and first aid courses through NOLS etc…
As far as knowing where to go in the backcountry, guidebooks are a great resource. Jackson Hole Backcountry Skier’s Guide: South by Thomas Turiano is a great example. This book does NOT teach avalanche safety skills. Rather, it gives maps and information to backcountry skiers and snowboarders. Things you can find in this book: best places to travel safely, hazardous things to look out for, places to park so as not to get in the way of snow plows and public works etc…
While visitors focus on fine dining after a day on the slopes (likely mixed with a beer at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar) you’re likely to find a local, who’s not at their second or third job, at Hole Bowl on Mondays for an hour of free bowling after 5pm with proof of a local pay-stub. You’re also likely to find that local competing in the Margarita Cup; a downhill ski racing competition on Wednesday evenings presented by Pica’s Restaurant in partnership with the Jackson Hole Ski and Ride Club. After the Margarita Cup, the local crop takes to the mic for karaoke night at the Virginian Saloon. When 6am rolls around, the same locals can be found dawning head lamps and ski or snowboard boots for an early morning lap on Teton Pass before stopping in at Pearl Street Bagels for some food and coffee on their way to work.
A popular example of social capital in Jackson is bluegrass night at the Silver Dollar Bar. Every Tuesday, One Ton Pig takes the stage (which really isn’t a stage but rather a corner of the dance floor) and locals from age 18-85 showcase their affinity for swing dancing. 70 year old ranchers in cowboy hats and cowboy boots shuffle alongside their 25 year old community members in ski branded trucker hats and flannel shirts while everyone wears huge, slightly sweaty, smiles- PBR in hand.
National Park Service. (6/26/18). Park Statistics: Grand Teton. Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/grte/learn/management/statistics.htm
National Park Service. (9/16/16). Park Statistics: Grand Teton. Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/grte/learn/management/statistics.htm
United States Census Bureau. (2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates). Jackson, WY, Age and Sex. Retrieved from http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_5YR_B01001&prodType=table
United States Census Bureau. (2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates). Jackson, WY, AGE AND SEX. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_16_5YR_S0101&prodType=table
Know your “Why”.
This letter hangs on the wall of my bedroom, next to my door, so that its one of the first things I see and walk past every morning when I wake up.
It was gifted to me by a high school student after a talk that I gave about my journey of overcoming depression and anxiety and the skills I learned in the outdoor world that allowed me to do so. Those skills changed my life. They’ve afforded me many great opportunities; one of which is the comfort and calmness that I feel in just being authentically myself. That used to be a very illusive feeling that I wasn’t sure I’d ever fully get to experience. That growth over time has made me pretty frickin happy, and I’m ecstatic that sharing myself with others can elicit such a positive response. Gratitude. Humility. Happiness. Sense of purpose. Drive. That’s how I start my day, thanks to this student and their incredibly kind gesture.
Sense of place is important to me. This might seem odd because my geographic location tends to be sporadic, and my plans ever evolving. But it’s there.
And for me, sense of place and sense of purpose tend to intertwine. Meaning without both, one alone tends to fall short. I’ve gotten better at going with my gut over the years when it comes to choosing life direction and angle of pursuit toward my goals. That also meant that I started moving around a bit more and exposing myself to new things and new groups of people again and again. This has made me really comfortable with transition, with forging into the unknown, and with adaptation. That practice of exposure has also given me a lot of friends in a lot of places; really great, genuine, hilarious, intelligent, and caring people. I’m really thankful for all of them and for the experiences we share. I feel pretty frickin lucky to be so fortunate. To those folks: If you’re reading this, know that I appreciate you a whole hell of a lot.
The hard part about pursuing goals in multiple directions and locations is that it usually means disengaging from those groups, at least in some capacity. They’re still there of course and I’m still a part of them when I’m able to circle back. I’ve also gotten really good at being alone, and my independence is something I really value. But the drawback to the constant state of moving around is that at times, it can certainly be lonely. Rejoining groups feels different because they’ve changed in your absence. Waking into a room full of strangers is rewarding when you connect, but a challenge every time. People contribute to my sense of place and sense of purpose. So does my proximity to the outdoors. As does what I choose to pursue.
The alignment of those things creates such a positive equilibrium for me. Getting active outside has become a fundamental pillar of my own self care because it’s impact cascades across all facets of my life. I’m missing being in the Tetons a lot these days. And I miss being on my snowboard. I’ll be back to both soon. Sometimes I feel like a snickers commercial, except the “you’re not you when you’re hungry” is “you’re not you when there’s no snow”.
I didn’t notice that Jen was in this photo at the time that it was taken. If I had, maybe things would’ve played out differently.
On July 2nd , I woke up at 4a.m. in my hammock. I packed up my sleeping bag and quietly tossed it into my already loaded 4Runner, doing my best not to wake anyone else up. A few friends and I had been camping in the Popo Agie Wilderness outside of Lander, Wyoming near the Wind River Range.
By 11a.m. I was putting on my snowboard boots on the side of the road on Beartooth Pass, around 250 miles away—just shy of the Montana boarder. As I cinched down and tightened my boot, the lace frayed and snapped. Great. I kicked myself for forgetting to bring a spare. Had I just driven over five hours to ride a couloir in duct taped boots? Maybe. Sorry, mom.
I looked across the dirt outcropping I was using as a parking lot, and approached a Subaru stuffed with gear and the two owners of all that gear. Introducing herself, Jen quickly passed me an extra lace, and introduced me to Matt, while smiling and pointing to the chute I’d also been eyeing. Both were snowboarders. Rad.
At the top of the pass, and at 10,947 feet, Matt and I eyed the line below us with brandished smiles on our faces. Jen had stayed below on the ridge, and planned to ride a different chute than us. They were working on filming a snowboarding edit, and Jen was the photographer. Super rad.
Matt strapped into his board to drop first. Matt had reached the safe zone below the rock face, and hollered a nice, crisp “CLEAR”. I took a photo from the top of my line, and then dove into the chute. I met him at the bottom with a fist bump after dancing my way through the chute and the soft, summer snow conditions.
I looked back up to see Jen standing at the top, on the other side of the chute from where Matt and I had descended. She was standing on the overhanging cornice, the one on the left in the first photo. Leaning out to get eyes on her route below her, she held her board and yelled something I couldn’t quite make out. Not good, not good at all. Bad.
Jen and Matt had come up from Salt Lake City, Utah. They were searching for snow, too. We wild ones. We crazy, committed, fun-seekers, and pursuers of passion. Out here snowboarding in July—something the average person probably would never do, let alone understand. I saw it when I met them in the parking lot. It was in their eyes. An unspoken acknowledgement and understanding that we shared.
A loud scream followed the sharp crack against the rock. It belonged to Jen. The following outcries were interrupted by gasps and thuds. The source of the noise came from the other side of the rock wall from where Matt and I were perched. Turning toward the source of the sound, Jen emerged from the neighboring chute. She was sliding, and gaining speed. There was no snowboard on her feet. Her head and face were a dark maroon, the same color that highlighted her path down the snow. Jen hadn’t been wearing a helmet.
When we had been standing on top of our line, Matt and I had both noted the clouds encroaching on our sunlight. The day was warm, especially in the sun. The snow was soft, but firm. Snow tests had shown that the pack was solid and didn’t propagate or produce slough. Our turns had cut the snow like butter, and remained etched in the slope. Though my hoody was raised, covering my neck from the sun, I could feel a slight breeze penetrate the fabric. Flow state.
Without looking at each other, Matt and I sprang across the slope. We weren’t aimed at Jen, but below her. We were riding toward where she would be by the time we got there, so that we could intercept her slide. She was sliding fast, and we needed to physically catch her so she wouldn’t careen to the bottom.
Beneath the flowing blood, Jen’s darting eyes told me two things. First, that she was awake. Second, that she was really, really scared. While I was quickly removing my backpack to get at my first aid kit I asked a question that I already knew the answer to: “Do either of you have any wilderness medicine training?” I broke the silence, took a deep breath, and quickly followed up with “I’m a wilderness first responder, can I help you?”
Recreating in the backcountry comes with risk. That risk is often multiplied significantly by a lack of cell phone service to call for help in an emergency. I explained what I was doing as my hands searched Jen’s head and neck for injury. I forced a smile. I hadn’t found anything other than the gash in her forehead, a broken nose, and the baseball sized lump protruding from above her opposite eye. At least three points of contact.
The flash of lightning was concerning. I tried for a tone of voice that wouldn’t cause unnecessary alarm, but would convey urgency. Jen’s vitals were remarkably stable. She had not lost consciousness, and was completely coherent which was a miracle. She knew her name, where we were, the time of day, and what we were doing. She even knew who the POTUS was, but admittedly wasn’t happy about it. She cracked a smile.
My search for injuries to the rest of her body had come up empty, except for minor scratches on her hands and wrist from trying to cease her slide down the snow. Even with my warning, I could tell that my yells for help and waving arms were making Jen uncomfortable. But they were necessary. I was only one person, and Jen needed to get to a hospital, now.
If the people in the distance on the road had heard or seen my efforts to communicate, I couldn’t tell. I monitored Jen’s vitals, and any other signs that would indicate a change to her state. However, I worried about injuries that I couldn’t see that could be forming below the surface. Since Jen didn’t have her snowboard, she had to slide down the rest of the way on her butt. Matt and I flanked either side of her to support her while she slid. We also used the handle of my avalanche shovel from my backpack as a “brake” for her to dig into the snow.
At the bottom of the run, and at the intersection of the snow and grass, there were a couple of hikers that had heard my calls for help. They had seen everything. They saw Jen’s fall as she was strapping into her snowboard, which the rocks had shielded Matt and I from. After the steep hike up the grass and rock to the parking lot, Matt drove Jen to the hospital 45 minutes away in Red Lodge, Montana where she would get scans of her head.
The hikers returned to their car, and continued on to Beartooth Lake. I hitched a ride back to where we three had left my 4Runner at the top of the pass, and silently stowed my gear. I untied my boots, pausing to examine the lace that Jen had handed me. A faint smile emerged on my face in stark contrast with the knot in my stomach. It was 2pm. I exhaled, and embarked on the five hour trip home.
Jen’s courage and ability to maintain her composure in the face of significant adversity is what got her off of the mountain, and eventually to the hospital. That, and Matt’s equal command of composure; and his unrelenting commitment to get our trio off of the slope and to the base of the hike up to the road. Jen was able to walk herself out. She was able to walk away alive. A week prior, someone else had fallen down a chute in Beartooth Pass while backcountry skiing. They, unfortunately, did not walk away alive. Jen was lucky.
My phone buzzed around 7pm. It was Jen. Her scans had comeback clean. Phenomenal.