We were skiing through the wide-open Tensleep Bowl below Corbet’s. True to its name it was lulling us to sleep with a wide expanse of inviting powder undulating down a moderate slope. We were ecstatic until we reached the end of Tensleep Bowl. The bowl ended in a series of chutes that ranged from narrow and steep to really narrow and very steep! As we pulled up abruptly, each one of us uttered the same phrase: “Oh S***!” So that section will always be called by that name rather than “The Cirque” which today’s trail map shows. In fact I still have the 1971 Jackson Hole trail map with the penciled in name “Oh S***!”
Two of the guys in our group were former MMSP member John Fox and former Mad River patroller Ken Hildick. Sadly both of them have now passed away. Ken had started down into a particularly gnarly chute then called back for John to join him. When John arrived, he could see that the chute below was no more than six feet in width. He asked Ken how they would get out of there and Ken responded “I don’t know that’s why I wanted you down here with me!”
Jackson Hole, the ski area, is an expert’s paradise. Even the in-bounds skiing seems out-of-bounds. Corbet’s Couloir is perhaps the most famous example requiring a twelve to twenty foot drop just to get started. But Corbet’s is far from the toughest in-bounds couloir at Jackson since it rapidly widens after the initial drop. Many Retro-Skiers can remember Tom LeRoy doing a front flip into Corbet’s in Ski the Outer Limits, a film made by Barry Corbet – yup, you guessed it. By the way, today’s young daredevils are launching all kinds of jumps off that lip. You can check the video out on Jackson Hole’s website.
If you’re planning to go to Jackson Hole, check out Bob Peters’ Guide to Skiing Jackson Hole. It covers Jackson from mellow to extreme and it’s like having your own guide show you the mountain.
The Jackson Hole ski area was the idea of Paul McCollister who partnered with developer Alex Morley to form the Jackson Hole Ski Corporation in 1963. They actually acquired federal assistance since the Teton County area was designated “economically depressed!” That’s difficult to believe now as the property values have to be some of the highest in the country. They opened the ski area in 1965. A piece of trivia is that Teton Village at the base of the mountain is on land that was formerly the Crystal Springs girls’ dude ranch.
Jackson Hole can still boast the largest vertical within the United States at 4139 feet. The initial lift structure relied heavily on the tram which served all 4139 feet of vertical. This was a bottle neck if inclement weather limited the use of the tram and Jackson Hole does get inclement weather. I experienced a whole season of weather there in one week! Today Jackson Hole has an extensive lift structure that is far less weather-dependent.
One of the smart things McCollister did when the area started in 1965 was to lure Pepi Stiegler into becoming the first Ski School Director there. Stiegler had just won a gold in Slalom and bronze in Giant Slalom at the 1964 Olympics.
Bill Kornrumpf was the first to identify Josef “Pepi” Stiegler as the winner of the Slalom gold in 1964. Bill also took me to task for not including something about the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics where the US won gold in both the two-man and four-man bobsled. But they didn’t have alpine skiing at the 1932 Olympics, Bill!
Stiegler was an Austrian ski racer who won a silver medal in Giant Slalom at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics and then had the two medal performance in Innsbruck. Stiegler took the job at Jackson Hole and helped make the area a success. He worked for Jackson Hole for 37 years, first as ski school director and then as Director of Skiing, retiring in 2002. He still lives there and skis there although his interests are more in ski touring these days. His daughter, Resi, follows in the family’s racing tradition on the US Ski Team.