Driving from Jackson to Alpine, if you look up, you can see ragged cliff-looking faces with broken trees. But Thomas Turiano knows what lies just above and out of view: Classic ski terrain. The lines and terrain in the Snake River Range and other mountains south of Jackson are not well-known.
“There’s an actual lifetime of skiing south of Teton Pass,” Turiano said.
The Jackson author is familiar the skiing assets of the region, and he shares much of that knowledge in his new book Jackson Hole Backcountry Skier’s Guide: South. It features backcountry skiing opportunities for all abilities in the Snake River, Salt, Wyoming and other mountain ranges south of Teton Pass.
Turiano, also the author of Select Peaks of the Greater Yellowstone, arrived in Jackson in the early 1980s on spring break during his freshman year at the Colorado School of Mines. After that first spring break in Jackson, he decided he wouldn’t return to school the next fall. Instead he moved to Jackson.
A New York state native, he grew up learning to ski and hone his mountaineering skills on a big hill in his backyard. Backcountry skiing in Wyoming offered much more adventure than resort skiing. Always curious about the terrain that lay outside the gates, he started exploring the Tetons with experienced friends and mentors, seeking out untracked snow.
“It’s the religious experience of having that smooth feeling underfoot, along with the exploration and finding new places,” he said of the instant appeal.
But Turiano, like so many others in Jackson, focused on exploring the obvious peaks in the Tetons, even writing his first book, Teton Skiing: A History and Guide, on the area. Right after it came out in 1995 he started thinking of writing another skiing guidebook to the southern area mountains. At the time, fewer people were skiing in those mountains — including Turiano, who didn’t realize the expansiveness of the terrain.
“I would soon find out though, because I started on Select Peaks,” he said.
Select Peaks was broader, not focused solely on skiing, but also on the history of the mountains, mountaineering and climbing. In the process of researching the book Turiano got to know the southern mountains well.
He started on the southern ski book in 2003, pecking away at it until two years ago when he decided if he ever wanted to finish it he needed to devote more time. The book, which is the only ski guidebook to the southern mountains of the area, is divided into 14 chapters and organized by access points. Everything in the book is accessible from Jackson within a day, leaving time for skiing once you arrive.
“It’s for the Jackson Hole skier,” he said. “This is your terrain. This is your world.”
Turiano doesn’t keep anything back. He includes even his favorite lines and secret powder stashes.
“That’s really hard for me to do — to horde something awesome for myself,” he said. “I’d rather tell about it than hoard it.”
It also doesn’t fit a writing ethic that Turiano committed to in his first book.
“I’m not going to write something that doesn’t do justice to the place or the people that were there first,” he said. “I want the reader to become a steward of the place rather than just a user.”
There is some history woven into the information on the more than 1,000 lines the book describes. The book spans a range of difficulties, including buttes and foothills for beginners.
“Anything with good skiing that I saw I included,” he said.
He omitted only areas with convoluted access that involved skirting private land. There are also more than 500 photos, some with routes drawn on them to show less obvious terrain.
Since Turiano started exploring the ranges, he’s found he prefers the terrain south of Jackson more than skiing in the Tetons. The ascents are shorter, so he can get in multiple laps on one peak. The mountains allow for linking peaks and creating unique adventures. The snow is also better. The Tetons are higher, but there’s less direct sunlight in areas like the Snake River Canyon, so even south-facing slopes are colder.
Plus, there’s still more left to explore. He’s already thinking about the next edition. But that will have to come after he writes the guide to the northern range and revises Select Peaks, which is out of print, but still in demand. He also plans in the next few years to write a revision of Teton Skiing in the same format as his new book, including areas like Togwotee Pass and the Big Holes.
— “Peaks to Plains” is a blog focusing on Wyoming’s outdoors and communities. Kelsey Dayton is a freelancer and the editor of Outdoors Unlimited, the magazine of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. She has worked as a reporter for the Gillette News-Record, Jackson Hole News&Guide and the Casper Star Tribune. Contact Kelsey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter: @Kelsey_Dayton
SUPPORT: If you enjoyed this story and would like to see more quality Wyoming journalism, please consider supporting WyoFile: a non-partisan, non-profit news organization dedicated to in-depth reporting on Wyoming’s people, places and policy.
NOTE: Beginning November 6, 2014, WyoFile will no longer accept anonymous comments. To be considered for publication, each comment must be accompanied by the writer’s first name, last name, and city of residence. — Ed