The Bridger Gondola at Jackson Hole
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Wednesday 21 December 2005 : Leaving Calgary

The Tram Station in Teton Village

Hugh had completed his six-month assignment to the Fluor Calgary office and was ready to start driving south to Houston. There wasn’t sufficient time to drive to Houston in time for Christmas, so the decision was made to meet in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a Christmas ski vacation. Hugh departed the office in the late afternoon in his diesel VW Jetta station wagon loaded with toys and gear for the vacation. His goal was to cross the Canadian border before midnight in order to get customs stamps on the receipts of purchases required for the return on the Goods and Services Tax. The Canadian customs formalities were routine and the US Immigration office gave a warm welcome back into the US. My goal was to reach Shelby, Montana which is the first town inside the border in time for dinner. After arriving and checking into the hotel, I enjoyed a nice pork chop dinner and celebrated the completion of my assignment with some proper libations.

Thursday 22 December 2005 :

Becky on the ski slopesThe Comfort Inn in Shelby serves a complimentary continental breakfast, but service doesn’t begin until 6:00am which was later than I needed to start driving if I were to reach Teton Village before dark. The weather was perfectly clear, the temperature was a little above freezing and Interstate highway 15 was dry and clear. The speed limits across Montana are 75 mph which seems to be more of a suggestion than an actual limit. I 15 passes through some nice scenery along the Missoula River and going over the pass I did have to slow down for the twist and turns in the highway. After clearing the mountains, I was back on the plains and I had the hammer down. As I approached the Idaho border, as dense fog covered the road and the traffic slowed accordingly. This fog remained for several miles until I reached Dubois where I stopped for fuel and sandwich. Soon after leaving Dubois, the fog cleared and I could see the Idaho landscape for the first time…the mountains were in the distance, but I was driving through the plains. When I reached Idaho Falls, I turned east off of the interstate towards the Teton Pass. A slight rain started as I left Idaho Falls which helped wash off the mud I had accumulated while driving through the fog. As I approached the Teton Pass at elevation 8800 feet the rain turned to a heavy wet snow. The Wyoming Department of Transportation can invoke a mandatory chain law if the snow accumulation is too deep. I had bought chains for my tires in case the pass was snow covered, but fortunately all of the roads were plowed clear of any snow so I didn’t have to stop to put on the chains. Because the roads were clear, I arrived at the Teton Village in the middle of the afternoon. I checked into the Alpenhof hotel and unloaded all of the ski gear then headed to the Bistro to relax, imbibe and have a snack. Becky was departing from Houston about the time I arrived at the hotel; she phoned to alert me that Delta was about 30 minutes late and there could be a problem with the connection in Salt Lake City because she only had 40 minutes to make the plane change. Fortunately the entire Delta system was delayed so both Becky and her luggage made the connection in SLC. She arrived at the Jackson Hole airport a few minutes past 10:00; we collected her luggage and drove through the rain back to our hotel. I had ordered some dinner before I left for the airport which was waiting for us when we returned. We celebrated our reunion and safe arrivals with a nice bottle of Canadian Merlot that I had smuggled across the border.

Friday 23 December 2005 :

The Grand Teton Mountain RangeThe rain stopped some time in the night and the skies were perfectly clear, but we were concerned about the damage to the snow that the rain may have caused; then we learned that the upper elevations had received seven inches of new snow instead of the rain so the skiing should be excellent. The breakfast buffet at the Alpenhof is a sumptuous spread of cereals, meats, eggs, fruits and pastries. We leisurely made our way through the buffet and then started to prepare for the first day of skiing. I had bought a pair of skis for Becky in Calgary, but we needed to get the bindings adjusted to fit her boot. The ski shop was just a few feet away and they adjusted the binding in just a few minutes. Now it was time to pull on all of the ski clothes and prepare for our first run; we started up the Bridger Gondola about 11:00. From the top, the view over the Snake River Valley was remarkable; there was plenty of fresh snow and we were ready to go. We found the Casper lift where we spent most of our time; this lift is halfway up the mountain so all of the snow was dry and crisp. The snow at the bottom of the mountain was slushy from the rain and warm temperatures. We decided that we would ski only about 3 hours this first day which was plenty. This provided ample time for happy hour and some much needed rest from the travels of the previous day. We also wanted to see the shops and restaurants in the Teton Village; we discovered a delicatessen where there was a beer tasting in progress. A representative of the Big Sky Brewing Company in Missoula Montana was offering a taste of each of the company’s six brews. We tried them all and decided the Scape Goat Pale Ale was the best. They gave us a souvenir glass when we purchased a six pack. The Bistro in the Alpenhof features a happy hour special every day and has an entertaining Bavarian umpah band. We took all of our evening meals in the Alpenrose restaurant; the menu features Bavarian style selections which were not only appealing but also quite authentic.

Saturday 24 December 2005:

Hugh on the ski slopes in Jackson HoleAnother beautiful day with a fresh covering of snow everywhere. We started our day earlier because we wanted to take a drive in the afternoon through the Grand Teton National Park. We finished breakfast and were on the Bridger gondola by 9:30; we tried to find some ski trails and lifts that we had not skied the day before, but we discovered that we already had been skiing on the best runs so we returned to the Casper lift and the runs where we were comfortable skiing. We quit after 3 hours on the slopes and went to the Mangy Moose for lunch. Now we were ready to begin our drive to the national park; using the map in the hotel guest book, we found the entrance to the park just a mile or so from the Teton Village, however the ranger told us the roads were closed for the winter and we would have to drive to the Moran entrance about 35 miles away. This drive took us through the town of Jackson and through the National Elk Preserve where we saw thousands of elk grazing in the meadows. We arrived at the gate and paid for a day pass into the park; most of the park is closed for the winter but the main road was plowed for 18 miles. We drove into some of the most spectacular scenery this country has to offer; we were hoping to see some animals, but none was in sight. We stopped to take pictures of the Grand Teton Mountain Range and also of Jackson Lake and then returned to Teton Village for the Christmas Eve Candlelight service and the special buffet at the Alpenrose. The buffet was terrific and the main attraction was a roast of buffalo prime rib…it was a fitting end to a wonderful day.

Sunday 25 December 2005 Christmas

Christmas Dinner in the Alpenrose RestaurantThis is our last day of skiing and the weather was ideal…a fresh inch of snow had fallen in the night to provide a velvet cushion to the ski trails. We enjoyed a late and leisurely breakfast before starting out to ski. The Alpenhof hotel is located right at the base of the gondola so we were able to ski in and out…the added convenience really helped to maximize the time we had to ski. The resort was not crowded and we never had to wait in a lift line…those conditions probably have set the standard for what a ski vacation should be. We did ski about an hour longer than we had the other days although we did stop at the Casper Restaurant for lunch. We skied until about 3:30 in the afternoon before we had to return to hotel to pack up for the long drive back to Houston. We had happy hour in our room (remember the Big Sky Brewery Scape Goat Pale Ale from Friday) as we needed the time to pack the luggage and load the car. The Alpenrose restaurant was fully booked for Christmas night and the first available sitting was at 8:00. There was a special 5 course Christmas Dinner, but that was a lot more food than we could possible consume, so we ordered a very nice Jaegerschnitzel off the menu.


Monday 26 December 2005

Hugh and BeckyWe were the first at breakfast at 7:00…actually the buffet was really nice as it first opens…we had only seen it after 2 hours worth of guests had dug through it. After breakfast we checked out and drove away from Teton Village. There was a little snow falling but there was no accumulation on the roads. We only drove about a half an hour before the snow stopped and the roads dried out. From then on it was pedal to the metal to reach Colorado Springs for the evening and to meet Larry and Monte Hudson who hosted us for the evening. Larry and I were college roommates at the University of Texas back in the late 60’s. We enjoyed the brief visit we had in Colorado Springs and look forward to the next one.

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