BD athlete Jake Sakson reports on skiing in the Pacific Northwest
Black Diamond athlete Jake Sakson might be short in stature, but he is usually found ripping some of the biggest lines imaginable—all on telemark gear. Jake made a break from the dry, sunny Rockies of his native Colorado this winter to ski the bottomless pow of the Pacific Northwest and drop in at Grand Targhee Resort for its Big Mountain Telemark Competition. Below is a report and photos Jake sent us about his trip.
It has been a brutally sunny and dry winter in Colorado and the powder itch was nearly blistering. When the opportunity to head to the Northwest presented itself I packed up the Astro Van with no intent of returning home for the rest of the winter.
I met my telemark cohorts Andy Jacobsen and Paul Kimbrough of the Powderwhore films and our plan was to spend 5 days in an out-of-commission fire lookout. After trudging 5 miles or so up a logging road we began climbing the peak to the fire lookout as a storm rolled in. Avalanche conditions were bomber but the mountain was steep on all sides. That night heavy winds and snowfall ripped around our hut and when morning came we were not very motivated to explore the windslabs and exposed terrain in a whiteout, but we ventured out into the blizzard at the crack of noon. We descended the ridge as far as we could before reaching steeper terrain. Probing and ski cuts revealed deep wind slabs in some places so we retreated hoping for better visibility and less volatile conditions the next day. The next morning the storm had calmed but it was still snowing, fuel was running low (we had expected a propane stove in the hut but there was no propane adapter) so we packed up our heavy bags with our tails between our legs. When we got off the steep terrain and out of the wind we were delighted to find a couple feet of blower for our shredding pleasure.
Sun was forecasted for the next day so we lined up another mission. This time our plan was to start early and skin 7 miles up a logging road to ski some cool terrain in an area called "Skyline" divide. After miles of heinous flat trail breaking we began ascending some cool old growth forest. When we finally reached our destination the skies had closed up and we found ourselves in a thick fog. That's called getting shut down... We enjoyed some wooded powder before calling it a day. When we got to the car exhausted we better understood the practicality of snowmobiles.
Next stop: Grand Targhee for the Telemark Freeskiing Competition (no not an oxymoron). After catching first chair at Baker with 20 inches of fresh and a morning of delightful powder we headed to Targhee. The venue was plagued with difficult conditions: warm-wind affected snow, crowns, bed surface, and avalanche debris. After two runs and a tele-roll I sat in third place behind Paul Kimbrough and Mark Robbins. A heavy storm rolled in and the resort was forced to cancel the rest the competition due to poor visibility. It seemed like a good opportunity to catch some freshies on Teton pass so that's what we did, and skied the cold smoke till the sun set. After a few days of Wyoming fluff, we headed back to Baker and yes—it was still snowing.