They say every time you ski The Arch it adds a day to your life, but I’m not sure the big day of skinning doesn’t cost that day and maybe another; leaving only great memories of good snow and the awe and inspiration that a run like this provides.
Today, in the Jackson Hole side-country, finding good snow days after a storm can be a bit of a challenge and this year the low snow and warmth has only added to the task, but the area has endless opportunity for those willing to spend the day in search of a few great turns. To this end I have spent my winter cajoling friends into long tours to new and aesthetic places looking for inspiration.
This day I’ve wrangled my weekend ski buddy, hungry from a 9-5 and his girlfriend who is relatively new to backcountry skiing with the promise of good snow and skiing the most awesome thing she has ever skied, with the caveat that it will take all day. She agrees to join us and I leave their house that nigh to make a lunch and get ready for an early start; or as early as you can, catching the first tram at 9am.
A leisurely morning rolls by and of course I’m not on time, something my friends are used to, but for once they are even later. Its 10 by the time were on the tram and almost 11 by the time we deal with the traffic jam of nervous climbers on the one lane hike up Cody Peak and drop west towards our objective.
The tour to The Arch is about skiing esthetic terrain away from the crowds and after meandering across a few mellow drainages and up a small hill, we reach the top of the Cash Chute, a couloir with a huge spire that lead to The Arch.
The view is impeccable, surrounded by the Teton Range on all sides, with only the top of the tram to remind us that were not so far from civilization. For some reason we always seem to stop here for lunch and today is no different.
The chute we ski after our mid day repast is only half of the one epic run we have planned today, the next is what were here for. The gigantic limestone arch is as picturesque as it gets; each person who skis in above blurts out something like “Wow that is big!”, or the always popular “Holy shit!”. Discovered by legendary mountain guide Theo Miners, tucked away in a spot where you would not likely stumble onto it, The Arch is one of the areas most renowned ski runs.
Today it’s a little skied up but we find a few good turns and an overwhelming sense of wonder at the incredible forces of nature that carve stone features like this into the nooks and crannies of the backcountry. By now it’s 3:30 and the day is almost over, with the tram taking it’s last load to the top we decide to skin the 2000 feet or so up the backside of Tensleep Bowl back into the resort instead of taking the long side step out of Granite Canyon.
Reaching the top in the last moments of sunlight I take a look at my GPS that’s been tracking our day and realize that while the 4000 feet of total vert should not have been enough to wear us out, the 13 miles we had covered did the trick. I had always gone out the Granite way and questioned the incredibly long skin back up to the resort, but after working our way past some snowcats that had just finished tilling the way down, we skied the best groomer I had ever experienced, making this trip to the arch one that will certainly leave it’s mark, easily worth the day of skiing, and the one day of my life the long journey will take from my latter years.