Guest Blog I Jaclyn Jaroch’s Avy 1 Class

March 8, 2017

I am not bold.

This realization came from overhearing some coworkers discussing the “bold user group” that exists in the backcountry of the Tetons. I’ve lived here for nine years and, until this week, had never earned my turns in a national park.

I only learned to ski ten years ago. I took my first ventures into the backcountry areas adjacent to JHMR just six years ago, spending some time familiarizing with those areas. Last year I spent a frigid half-week between Christmas and New Year’s getting my Avy 1 certification with the AAI (and infinite gratitude to the JH BabeForce).

I’ve taken my time. I’ve waited for the opportunities to present themselves in ways and at times when I am ready to embrace them. I’ve fought, but I haven’t pushed.

This winter I have yearned for the backcountry, having grown bored and irritated with the lines and being skied on top of during the powder-fever rush of deep days at the resort. I’ve grown discouraged with being the one to ask people to go skiing with me. (And ask and ask.)  I have become lonely. But something about the most recent storm to hit the Tetons reignited the fire, illuminating that desire for getting farther away from the resort.

Once again, I texted: Any interest in a tour tomorrow?

One friend already had plans, another a tweaked knee, and need for a rest day before work. Still another hadn’t gotten back to me by late afternoon. Then a long time lifty friend and old ski partner called. He and some buddies were keen for a tour in the Grand Teton National Park on Wednesday.

The next morning, zooming along the frozen highway toward the park, we settled on a plan. I’d read the avalanche hazard forecast aloud over coffee that morning at the kitchen counter while the boys readied their gear. After a few minutes of discussion in the car, the consensus formed around Maverick. They described Wimpy’s, Maverick, and 25 Short as being the three lesser peaks in front of Albright, Buck, and Static, the low-hanging fruit of skiing in the park. Maverick would be perfect for my first tour.

If I haven’t already established the point: I am slow. Not just in the way I’ve moved through my life in the mountains, but also in the way I move uphill. I had an okay idea of what I was getting into with a 3000+ vertical-foot skin track ahead of me. As I shuffled my Marker Barron bindings uphill, I learned the valuable lesson many backcountry users learn about lighter gear. It took me five hours to reach the top of Maverick, where I promptly crumpled into a heap on the snow. After some hot tea and enough rest for my gummy-worm legs to re-solidify, we prepared to ski. Some discussion and a plan to ski were followed by a proclamation that we just couldn’t go wrong anywhere. The conditions were stable and good.

It is difficult to find words that might accurately describe what the ski down was truly like. Even now, with the burn in my legs still alight and the afterglow of sexy powder turns still eliciting random smiles, the conditions don’t seem wholly believable. Text messages I sent after our return to the trailhead read: ohmyf*ckinggod. skied the best deepest most unbelievable snow of my life today! 

The skiing yesterday was what anyone who’s clicked into a pair of skis dreams of, that once in a lifetime experience we all chase. It was even sweeter knowing I had earned each one of those faceshots, each one of those giggly, wobbly kneed pow-gasms. Over a 3000+ vertical-foot slog, over a decade of life spent on skis, I got there under my own power with the memories of others guiding me.

Thank you, my first Jackson boyfriend, for not even letting me ski Rock Springs with you. Thank you for telling me it wasn’t because you didn’t like skiing with me, but because my inexperience made me a liability. You opened my eyes to the reality of skiing in the backcountry.

Thank you to the people I have skied with since in the backcounty, for helping me check off objective after objective, and telling me I was a good enough skier. You built my confidence.

Thank you, Brody Leven, your Instagram adventures and kind spirit inspired me to crave human-powered turns and not get discouraged when people don’t go skiing with me. I kept asking because I wanted to do what you do.

I am not bold, but I am a skier.

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