A Winter In Jackson --Wish You Were There
By Bryan Iguchi
Snowboarding has always had its hot spots--and last winter it was Jackson, Wyoming. Bryan Iguchi, who stepped out of the pro shred spotlight in the late '90s only to reemerge stronger than ever when he moved to Jackson 16 years ago, documented a winter spent guiding the Volcom team, riding with Kevin Jones, lapping the tram, and pillaging the backcountry in the one place we all wish we were.
It all begins with my alarm going off, easing life back into the dark, cold winter mornings. The water is ice cold from the tap--nothing like an instant ice cream headache to snap me out of my grogginess. I brew coffee and jump online to check the weather forecasts and the avalanche and resort reports to begin piecing together the puzzle. I've lost track of how many days I've been going out shooting, it's become a blur. This is when I feel I'm at my best, I'm tuned into the snowpack, I've spent so much time outside--I know my gear. I start envisioning the day's possibilities, and I'm stoked to get out there.
An Early Start
It was late October when I walked out of the Jackson premiere of Deeper fully stoked only to find it pouring rain. As I drove home, it turned to snow, and dropped over three feet of dense flakes on the Tetons...and just like that, it was on. I spent the next few weeks getting back in tune with the mountains, splitboarding with Kevin Jones. We were both stoked on predawn starts with coffee-fueled conversation as we drove to the far reaches of Jackson's domain. We put together a hit list and daydreamed about the potential trips we could do as the winter began. We rode in solitude while most of the valley residents waited it out, rightfully skeptic about the quality of early season snow. The storms progressed and the mountain opened in late November "top to bottom, wall to wall"--the earliest opening in history with the most snow on record--over 10 feet had already fallen. It was amazing, deep powder, with the tram and all chairlifts running.
The storms kept rolling in until the end of January, extending into early February when a mass of cold air filled the valley. For several days we had crystal-clear skies and arctic subzero temperatures. It was during this high pressure that TWS Senior Photographer Frode Sandbech dropped in to start shooting a Volcom project. We had a loose plan with riders rotating through all February, Jake Price filming, Frode and Vernon Deck shooting photos, and myself in charge of making sure we got the best snow and terrain to ride. I liked the idea because it takes time and patience in the mountains to get it good, and it would give me a chance to spend time riding and hanging out with the team. It's been a Volcom tradition to shoot in Jackson ever since we made Subjekt Haakonsen. Some of my best memories are of exploring the Jackson Hole Resort backcountry for the first time while working on the project with Terje, Johan Oloffson, Michi Albin, Sebu Kuhlberg, and Dave Seoane.
The Circus Comes To Town
It turned out to be quite a year for snowboarding out here. Jackson Hole opened a new Burton Stash Park bringing in a large cast of media and riders from around the world. Travis Rice was filming for The Art Of Flight (Brainfarm is based in Jackson), Mark Carter and Kevin were filming for TB20, Jeremy Jones and Xavier De Le Rue were filming for Further, and Alex Yoder and Blake Paul had a crew going as well--when it rains it pours...or dumps actually.
The first Volcom crew that came through consisted of Bjorn Leines, Wille Yli Luoma, and Curtis Ciszek--backcountry veterans. They've all been to Jackson before and destroy everything. I've had some really good sessions the last couple of seasons with Wille and Curtis, and I was really stoked to shred and hang out with them. Wille can ride a snowmobile like a pro, he's always down to break trail, and teamed up with Bjorn and Curtis, there were no limits to where we could go or what we could ride. Despite a lull in the snowstorms, we found good lines to ride on the high north-facing aspects and were on a mission to find better. We started chipping away, early starts with Wille brewing his Heart Roaster coffee for the crew, long drives, and exhausting days battling the cold. As the trip progressed, it began to snow. We battled the storm with white-knuckled drives through whiteouts and took to the trees with the flash, building jumps, and shooting well into the dark. After a solid week of shredding with the vets, it was time for them to go.
Vernon, Markus Keller, and Luke Mitrani arrived a day later. We teamed up with Kevin Jones and Chris Ando (a friend of Kevin's who films for Standard). I was stoked to join forces with them as new snow began stacking up. With all the new snow came elevated avalanche hazards. After a couple days working through the weather, the storm broke and the sun came out. We left the house well before sunrise; it felt good to watch the sky turn from pink to gold. Herds of antelope kept us on our toes as we neared our destination. Our objective was a series of small cirques filled with cliffs and pillow lines. When Kevin, Chris, and I assessed the new snow we found it to be pretty unstable. It was a concern, but we decided it was manageable, so we eased into the session. We triggered a few small predictable slides on our first drops as expected and gained confidence to step it up. Kevin laid down some really nice lines, and Markus charged big cliffs, hitting transition with calculated Swiss precision. I picked off a few lines as well, and we got our fix after a few days working across the series of small, steep bowls. After our last session, Volcom Filmer Jake Price busted out his NoBoard and started hitting this jump. He threw a backflip and over rotated it a bit...we were freaking out when he went back up and threw a perfect double! He landed on the edge of a bomb hole and went down, but I swear he would of stuck it clean if it was a fresh landing.
Dylan Alito drove up that night from Colorado, and it was his first trip to Jackson. I had met Dylan at the TWS Team Shoot Out the season before, and his park skills blew me away. I was an instant fan, and he kept me laughing the whole time. He had no problem riding in the backcountry--I think he has a big future ahead of him. Luke, Dylan, Kevin and I (a diverse crew of riders to say the least) spent the next couple of days working together shuttling, shoveling, and riding lines. Tara Dakides, who had also moved to Jackson for the season, joined us stoking out the groms.
The last group that came was Volcom Team Manager Alex Lopez, Tyler Flanagan, Ruiki Masuda, and Torgeir Bergrem. I've known Tyler for a while now, and it's crazy watching the kid come up killing it in the contests. I remember going out with him on his first backcountry trip to Sonora Pass when he was 11. I met Ruiki when he was really young as well--he's been pioneering some sled spot in Hokkaido, some of the first sled shredding in Japan I've ever heard of. They joined Dylan to get after some of Jackson's finest jump spots. We spent the last days of the trip mixing it up with a few days riding the resort and building as many backcountry hits as possible. We revisited a few of the jump zones from Subjekt and witnessed a new breed of riders throwing down tricks. Torgeir was on mission this past season competing in stadium contests all over Europe, and this was his first pow trip of the season. It was good to witness his super tech style.
Over the trip we stacked tram laps, endless miles on the snowmobiles, lots of digging out sleds buried hopelessly deep, hours waiting for the sun while window shopping in a series of storms that wouldn't end. We rode as much as possible, working around the weather and avalanche hazards and got to ride some pretty epic snow. I think everyone had a lot of fun, and, at the end of the day, I'll remember the times when it all came together. The torch has been passed connecting the generations of riders with the simple act of doing.
La Niña Does Jackson Right
2010/11 Total Season Snowfall: 723 inches--a new base depth record for the resort.
2011/12 Season Opener: November 26 opening with over 3,000 vertical feet of riding, setting new records for the earliest opening and the most opening day terrain. Get there.
Go Where The Locals Go
Sudachi Sushi: Located off the Village Road on the way to the resort. sudachijh.com
Teton Thai: Laidback atmosphere and epic food in Teton Village at the resort. tetonthai.com
Mangy Moose: Don't stress about what you're going to do at night in Teton Village...you're going to the Mangy Moose. mangymoose.net
Don't Miss It: Hit up the five separate Burton Stash terrain parks spread across the lower mountain with features built out of natural elements including boulders, wood, and existing slope contours.