words by Daniel V. O'Neil
We arrived in Jackson, Wyoming, with no other notion of the place than its nobility in the ranks of ski resorts: very steep, massive, and vast. Besides snowboarding for three days, we had little idea of what we’d see or do. Asymbol Gallery, at the center of where art and snowboarding meet, lay somewhere in tiny Jackson. Then there’d be all the touristy Western bars and shops to check out, and some of Grand Teton National Park. Why over-plan such a short trip?
Travel that depends on weather phenomena like fresh snow or good waves eludes anything but short-term preparation anyway. April had arrived, and, as nature would have it, we got spring conditions. Sunny and warm, cloudy and warm. Didn’t matter. A proper lack of expectations led us to enjoy Jackson Hole as much as a snowboarder can. About 95% of the people here ski, and the moguls are epic in a bad way, but we found surfy terrain like a double-overhead natural halfpipe, and the real halfpipe, and slashed away. Plenty of speed despite the melting snow: JH is steep, as our mid-slope burning legs reminded us.
You could die a thousand deaths on this mountain.
Turned out this was closing weekend for the ski resort. The locals celebrated Gaper Day, which lasted through the weekend: Costumes, alcohol, posses, and more booze. We joined right in. A country band played in the ski village, and back at the car we drank the local lager in a dirt parking lot surrounded by wood-fence corrals. Wyoming is our kind of place.
We found Asymbol closed for the week, a great disappointment for Lori. But the large windows let us see the art and snowboards on display, and it was rad. Unsure of where to go next, we headed down a side street and passed by, rare to find these days, a snowboard shop. The Boardroom is Wyoming’s original, and owner Lauri Aittola does all he can to “avoid becoming a dinosaur.” One half of the floor space is his, while the other half belongs to Aion, a clothing company which they design in the back room, for production in Bali.
People were standing around in the back corner of The Boardroom, sipping beer, the way it should be. Lauri offered cans of lager, we obliged, and the snowboard shop worked its magic: We learned that the premiere of Close to Home, a local snowboard movie, started in an hour, with party and all. WYPY (Wyoming Pythons), a crew of rippers including Alex Yoder, traveled to ski hills and resorts across their native state last spring, and made a documentary of their road trip. It kicked ass, reminding us of how fun travel and snowboarding with friends can be. The beers continued to go down, late into the night.
We didn’t get up early on Sunday.
It took endless walking to find a breakfast spot open in Jackson Hole village. The bloody mary’s only made us more tired, but the local energy pricked us up on the tram. Their last day of the season: everybody was hungover but jazzed. Another day of riding complete, we called it early, before ending up at a fine little wine bar in Jackson. Might as well indulge in a taste of Jackson’s upscale side, briefly. Our original plan had us riding on this third day, but the lifts turned no more. Our legs hurt anyway, and the weather turned to low clouds and drizzle. Almost everywhere in town—breakfast spots, souvenir shops, even the dang Million Dollar Cowboy Bar—was shut for a break before the dreaded summer tourism season (three to four million visitors, we heard).
Frustrated with civilization, we drove north to Grand Teton National Park. Only three miles of road had been cleared of snow. But the sense of openness and solace, and the mood of the clouds in the brooding Tetons, impressed us indelibly like oil paint or ink. We were now ready to leave, although we didn’t want to go.