This weekend I had the pleasure of joining Bobbi Clemmer on her first ever… ever… couloir ski descent – and I’m happy to report she knocked the ball out of the park! Chute The Moon was the name of the game, one of the few and finest “entry-level” couloirs in the Tetons. Load the beast with knee deep powder and you have a recipe for an exceptional day.
Though definitely a topic for it’s own article, it’s been an absolute joy watching Bobbi Clemmer bloom as a backcountry skier this season. Besides a half dozen “one-off” days, 2022 has been her first winter on skis. Money doesn’t grow on trees (cough cough, Targhee), so she’s been learning almost exclusively in the backcountry. Given the low snow of January and February, most of our skiing has taken place in March and April. Two weeks ago we skied Mount Glory for her second and third times, and last weekend was a glorious powder run on 25 Short. To say I’ve been impressed is an understatement. Though admittedly biased, I can’t really imagine the feeling of clicking into a pair of skis at 10,000 feet in Grand Teton National Park having only skied twenty times. Like what?! In my opinion that’s the definition of badass, especially considering she managed the 3,500 foot descent in good style – only two falls, minimum stops and even a few hop turns on some chicken-scratch pow up high, four-some hours car to car – booyah.
After a week of heavy snow, 41 inches to be exact, I was back to the drawing board, psyched to get out again with my budding winter adventure buddy. Instead of drowning in low angle pow, we aimed to ratchet up the slope angle and get Bobbi into her first couloir. Chute The Moon, diving north into Avalanche Canyon from the 25 Short/Peak 10,696 saddle, was the logical “first couloir” choice. The line is prized for ease of access, a forgiving slope and broad walls, while still providing a very real and incredibly scenic alpine ski mountaineering experience. I had only skied Chute The Moon once before in atrocious conditions (en route to Buck Mountain’s East Face), so it wasn’t just Bobbi who was excited for a new descent.
We approached Chute The Moon via Mavericks, the large lightly gladed buttress south of 25 Short, below Peak 10,696. I had never skinned up “Mavs” before, so my crusty “I’ve seen this 20 times before” Grand Teton National Park approach mindset was pleasantly stimulated. We started at 9:00AM, with three friends as a party of five, but got slimmed back down to the Brandon & Bobbi show around 9,700 feet (heal up, Carl and Bailey!). While skiing with the crew would have been a blast, Chute The Moon is a true couloir with confined acreage for fresh turns and a real avalanche slope, so reduced group size wasn’t the worst thing for safety’s sake. Hand pits and pole probing revealed about 30 inches of well bonded snow with minimal slab formation. Skinning beneath the east face of Peak 10,696 was the crux of the day, but the wind-hammered slope showed no signs of instability. Following Bobbi’s pace with a little bit of trail breaking from your’s truly, we reached the ~10,200 foot saddle-summit of Chute The Moon at 12:30PM.
Chuting The Moon
Chute The Moon looked almost too good to be true, a dreamy canvas of white fluff deliciousness with no signs of the dreaded wind slab I’d been fearing for the past few days. The two fine gentlemen who broke trail from Mavs to the summit dropped first, making splendid work of the deep, deep pow. As we ate homemade bagel sandwiches and stared into the abyss, I could see excitement percolating through every pore of Bobbi’s face. She was in the zone. I dropped first to set up for pictures, nearly front-flipping over the handlebars after an ambitious initial launch. Don’t misconstrue this as a complaint, but this powder wasn’t exactly quintessential Teton “cold smoke” – we’ll go with lightly sweetened, wind whipped cream cheese – Oregon on a cold day – grounds to recalibrate from Teton charge mode to backseat surf mode.
Watching Bobbi drop in was the highlight of the day. The difference in her skiing, from learning to link turns in Teton Pass last December to dropping into a 35 degree couloir at 10,200 feet in Grand Teton National Park with little trepidation made me too proud. She was really gettin’ it! Her turns flowed soundly for the whole 650 feet, stopping only once for a little lactic acid relief. No dumps or topples, just smiles and good style – I love my days in the steep and spicy, but this right here is what skiing is all about.
Rain, Rocks & Potatoes
The last lesson for sweet Bobbi to learn on this fine April day is one of the cruelest realities of ski mountaineering, that amazing skiing (if there even is any) is usually only about 10% of the pie. Enter stage left – the Avalanche Canyon out-track in heavy, sticky, rain smattered snow. At least we scored 1,500 feet of mostly great powder in the north fork, because the canyon bottom was on its’ worst behavior. Isothermal boulder fields, a few edge-tuning rocks, abundant sidestepping, even more abundant ski base globbing, a three-quarters-melted Taggart Lake, two grouchy tourists and some tediously slow flat-land skating… if you’ve been there, you know. Once again, hats off to Wonder Woman for keeping a cool head. Six-some hours later we were popping LaCroix’s on the trusty Hyundai hatchback, eating homemade almond butter cookies and celebrating a first couloir well shredded. Adventuring with this lady and watching her conquer her goals makes me very happy. More snow next week? Alright… alright – I guess I’ll lean into this “Feburary in April” sorta deal.
I hope you enjoyed this article. As always, I would like to give a huge thank you to my supporters, Icelantic Skis and Chasing Paradise. Need some new sticks capable of climbing and skiing anything your wild little mind can imagine? Head on over to icelanticskis.com and check out the Natural 101, my tried and true ski mountaineering katana.
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Mountains are dangerous. Skiing them is more dangerous. Can’t we just admire those beautiful peaks from the parking lot? With binoculars and a lime Lacroix? Hmm… Nevertheless, mountain conditions change regularly, and the information in this article is only accurate as it pertains to the titled date. This article is written strictly for informational purposes only. Should you decide to attempt anything you read about in this article, you are doing so at your own risk!