The aerial tramway creeps into the swirling, whirling below-freezing snow billows halfway up the grand teton, chilling the air but not the mood. An impossible-to-suppress energy percolates and for good reason. The corrugated metal floor, red siding, tinted windows with iconic silhouette of cowboy bucking bronco is the very lap of luxury.
Two trams head from the base of the mountain 4139 vertical feet to the highest point at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort each morning before official day opening leaving a virginal expanse for an hour, or such. Slots on those trams are allocated to certain guides, celebrities, professional snowboarders and skiers, politicians, persons of note.
That lame Tom’s Shoes guy, who refuses to mask up, and I wish he would not due Covid but because he is spewing some utter nonsense to his pals.
A surf journalist, today, but not because he is a surf journalist. The only perk in a surf journalist’s life is increasingly rare text messages from the World Surf League’s senior vice president of brand identity.
No, he is here because his young daughter’s godmother is mountain royalty.
A rare American blue blood psychotherapist who alternates time fixing inmates at New York’s Riker’s Island, chatting with the Karmapa Lama over yak butter tea in Tibet and snowboarding faster than anyone I know.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort belongs to her and, today, she is bringing this surf journalist and a famous chef Fredrik Berselius, owner of two Michelin stars, co-owner of Aska, one time model, from New York as her guests.
It’s colder, now, and I look around the lap of luxury and see big wave professional surfer Ian Walsh. He comes from Maui but, like many surfers, has a serious powder addiction. I don’t know who his patron but also know it’s not as good as mine. I see professional snowboarder Blake Paul and we discuss his Natural Selection Round 1 victory over Elias Elhardt, his upcoming heat against Austen Sweetin. The two rode together the previous day, spending time in Dick’s Ditch, and are chuffed that one will knock the other out.
It’s coldest, now, as the tram docks at its final station and that impossible-to-suppress energy bursts through the sliding doors into a blizzard but deep, fresh, fluff lies below, untracked, and everybody knows it.
Even Ian Walsh.
The lucky few huddle outside Corbet’s Cabin, the waft of freshly baking, legendary waffles floating through the door, cleaning goggles, jumping, keeping warm. A sense vibrates through that the ok will be given soon.
The group moves, as one, onto the snow. And when the ski patrol lifts his hands, giving the go, a hoot fills the air. I already have my bindings strapped down, having received a stern talking-to, the previous night, from my ex-professional snowboarder wife who seethed at me not to hold anyone up. I am taking her spot and promised not to bring shame upon the family.
Jody snowboards fast.
Down I slide, traversing blind across the windswept ice until vision and snow magically reappear and…
Knee deep, at least, and entirely smooth, without a mark. I put my ugly scrawl on it but didn’t hold anyone up, racing after Jody and Frederik, following them into the trees and feeling silly joy, hollering and hearing their hollers too. In front of me but not so far in front that my wife would seethe.
We float all the way to the Sublette quad and kick on with the resort still unopened. Chasing at least one, maybe two, more tabula rasas.
On the chair, Fredrik talks about how much he loved t-bars in his native Sweden. I knew he was Swedish, living in New York, but it struck me for the first time in that moment.
He is a Swedish chef.
A Swedish chef.
The Swedish Chef is my childhood hero, artistic inspiration, north star in practicing surf journalism.
And now snowboard journalism.
Börk, börk, börk, börk, börk, börk, börk.
I spend the next two stainless canters carefully observing Fredrick’s lines, soaking in the wizardry.
Learning everything I can.
Trying to keep Jody in my line of sight.
Trying not to bring shame on my family.
At the end of the day, stumbling back to the hotel, I see Ian Walsh. We fist bump, surfers in a strange world, comrades. I ask him how he liked it.
“Felt like heli drops…” he says. “Mind blown.”
“Börk,” I respond.