Jackson Hole is an unmatched playground, but the most important cardinal rule is always know before you go. 

Know before you go is a common phrase used in regard to avalanche education, but the truth is doing your research before any adventure in any kind of terrain will ensure the trip is safe and remains fun.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Jackson Hole

Backcountry skier looking over tetons

In the wintertime, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing in bounds, touring the park, skinning up Teton Pass or just heading out to look at the stars–there’s always knowledge to be had and prep work to be done to ensure you know where you are going whether you’re on snowshoes, a fat bike, snowmobile or skis. 

Consulting trail maps is step one. Don’t take on terrain you don’t know and go with a ski partner the first time you head out in new areas. That goes for the ski areas of Snow King Resort, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Resort which have natural features that can be challenging to navigate if you don’t know they are there. The JH Nordic Alliance and Teton Valley Trails and Pathways regularly update about groomed and ungroomed conditions in popular areas from how the snow is skiing to wildlife in the area.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Jackson Hole 

Fat Tire Bikers

And even if you plan to stick to groomed trails, make sure its terrain you can navigate safely. The last thing a beginner needs is to end up in an expert mogul field. 

If you’re planning on staying in more wild terrain, even if on the flat, preview what roads are open and what trails are accessible on the Grand Teton National Park and Forest Service websites. 

Photo Courtesy of Visit Jackson Hole 

Snowshoes Taggart

Never head out in the backcountry unless you, your ski partner or guide know where they are going. Weather can change in an instant in the Tetons which means a white out could turn you around and heading in the wrong direction and trekking for longer than your brought food, water and warm layers for. 

We are fortunate to have a local expert Jim Woodmencey and his meteorological consulting company MountainWeather™ as a primary resource for forecasts and conditions. It’s always worth a daily check on mountainweather.com even if you’re just planning on heading out to one of our many hot springs or driving over Teton or Towgotee Pass. 

The next most important rule of thumb is having the right gear. Beacons, shovels, probes are just the beginning–knowing how to use them is critical. Fortunately, there are several avalanche education opportunities in the Tetons to take advantage of and several outfits that have certified guides to ensure your safety remains a priority no matter which sport strikes your fancy. 

American Avalanche Institute: Level 1 (Click here for schedule)

American Avalanche Institute: Level 2 (Click here for schedule)

Jackson Hole Mountain Guides: Level 1 (Click here for schedule)

Jackson Hole Mountain Guides Level 2 (Click here for schedule)

Because we have so many mountain enthusiasts and the technology is always changing there are several nonprofits dedicated to educating mountain enthusiasts to be equipped with as much knowledge in the backcountry as possible. Reports come in each day from the Bridger Teton Avalanche Center where they take in snow data from several plots around the Tetons. Sign up for the daily e-blasts to stay on top of where you should go and when–but never alone. 

Other ensembles include the American Avalanche Institute, Central Wyoming College, Teton County Search and Rescue’s WYSAW programs (which are always loaded online for free). Women in the Tetons leads women focused avalanche courses, and of course there are several programs available through local businesses like Skinny Skis, Exum Mountain Guides and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

Backcountry adventuring whether on a snowmobile, skis or splitboard is one of the most exciting ways to experience Jackson Hole but it is dangerous to head out into unmanaged terrain where there is no avalanche control or ski patrol. 

Other important resources to familiarize yourself with the area and the conditions you may encounter include TCSAR, the Daily Avalanche Report, and WYDOT