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Yea living in a ski town is awesome, but there are some definite downsides.

First off, this is the only mountain I’ve ever lived at, so I can’t really speak to what it would be like to live in other places like Colorado, Utah, etc. I can say that beer in Utah is shitty though.

Jackson is interesting. “Jackson Hole” is the geographical area in which the town of Jackson, the airport, the mountain resort, and a few other random little towns reside. I always thought people were trying to be cool and abbreviate the name of where they live, but the town is actually just called Jackson. Also, the words “town” and “village” here are not synonymous – “Town” refers to the town of Jackson, and “Village” refers to Teton Village, which is the base area for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Just something to know beforehand to avoid any confusion.

JH Mountain Resort employs a few hundred people, but those jobs are pretty hard to come by — after about 2007-08, people at the resort started hanging onto those jobs for a lot longer because it’s kind of hard to find work doing anything else around here. Every year in August (I think) they have a job fair (you can check out the details on their website) that several hundred people attend, each hoping for one of the probably only 50-60 jobs that are actually available. Those range from front and back-of-the-house restaurant work to liftie jobs and everything in between, and experience always helps. Your other options are a) find a service industry position somewhere in town or the village (don’t bother trying to get a bartending gig, those are reserved for people who know people), or b) get lucky and find some random job other than working for the resort or in a restaurant. That’s the work situation.

Housing is pretty straightforward: get here at the end of the “off-season.” The off-season is the time between summer and winter when everybody moves away or leaves town to go do something cooler than sit here and watch it rain. At that time, housing is pretty easy to come by, but if you happen to show up anytime later than Nov 1, you’ll probably be living in a cheap motel for the winter – places get snapped up pretty quickly around here. Check out the Jackson Hole Radio Classifieds (online) or the Jackson Hole Daily classifieds (dunno if they’re online or not, but if they are it’s a good resource) for the going rates around here.

There are two other resorts around here where you could potentially work as well: Snow King and Grand Targhee. Snow King is a sad little hill that’s actually right on the edge of town. I say “sad” not because it’s only got a couple of little chairlifts, but because the word on the street is that if they don’t find an investor before next season, they’re declaring bankruptcy and shutting down. On the flip side, their hotel is pretty nice for how cheap the rates are, and that bit of their operation will undoubtedly stay open, regardless of what the resort does next year, so you working there is an option.

Targhee is the other option – it’s a ski resort in “Wydaho,” which means that while the resort is actually in Wyoming (just barely), you have to drive through Idaho to get there, and I’d guess 99% of the people who work there also live in Idaho. Their resort has a little bit more laid back feel to it compared to Jackson – there aren’t as many crazy “aggro” skiers over there – but the terrain is a bit of a let-down if you’ve started to take Jackson’s terrain for granted. Now that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with Targhee or Idaho, but the closest towns are (in order) Alta, Driggs, Tetonia, and Victor, and I’d estimate their combined population is still less than Jackson’s. Jackson is a small enough town as it is, so if you decide to live over on the other side in Idaho, you’re in for a little bit more of a rural lifestyle. Especially if you’re coming from Seattle (or any big city), I would probably not recommend this unless it’s something you know you’re into.

Other than that I’d just say to get ready, because everything you bought on a regular basis when you were living in Seattle is more expensive here, rent is usually more expensive, jobs pay a lot less, and things can get difficult. Also, if you *don’t* get a job at the mountain and you do want to ski/snowboard all winter, you’ll probably want to buy a season pass, which cost $1250 last year if you bought it in August, and $1500 normally.

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Complaining. Again.

It’s like this with pretty much everything, I’m starting to realize. When things are going really well, there isn’t much to talk about, so nobody knows that everything’s great. But when things go south, obviously that’s when people start to complain, so that’s when you hear about someone’s car being a piece of shit, or the neighbors that are too loud — whatever. The point is those things probably aren’t always bad, but when they are bad, that’s when they get the most publicity. And a story about someone’s dog NOT having diarrhea on the couch is generally less funny than the opposite (as long as you weren’t involved in the cleanup).

So my pseudo-point with that introduction is that my life isn’t really awful at all, but once I compile a long enough list of things to complain about I make a blog post. Then again, this is the internet, which means I definitely don’t have to explain why I’m complaining about random things on my own blog.

1. Cold water. I guess this is a retarded thing to complain about, but the back story here is that Jackson is cold during the winter, therefore the pipes in the crawlspace that carry the water from place to place are a) almost always cold, and b) have to warm up to some kind of room-temperature-ish operating temp before they’re going to deliver anything resembling hot water to your tap/tub/whatever. That means your hot tap runs cold for probably a full 60 seconds before it even gets warm. Don’t think that sounds like a log time? Go count to 5,000. That’s how long it takes.*

(*this statement is false.)

2. Loud people on the bus. In the winter the bus here runs directly from town to the Village (that means from Jackson the town, to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort), and taking that is way easier than driving. It’s almost impossible to ever ride the bus anywhere without running into someone you know/know of/saw at a bar one time, so just in case it’s still too early and you don’t want to make forced conversation all the way to the resort, you’ll have your headphones in BEFORE you get on the bus. What boggles the mind is that some people are capable of talking so loudly that they cut straight through your headphone’s ability to cancel noise. I’ve always been under the impression that common courtesy dictates that people try to avoid talking on the phone, playing your headphones too loudly and above all, KEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN when you’re on the bus. However, this seems to be a highly inaccurate assumption.

3. Being forgetful. I can literally meet someone and instantly forget their name. I can know someone for months and still randomly forget their name. Of course everyone always says, “oh you should just repeat it to yourself, put it in a sentence for yourself immediately, try to think of someone else you know with the same name,” bla bla bla. I can’t think of one time any of those exercises have positively impacted my ability to remember anything. And while it’s not all that uncommon to casually mention that you’re “bad with names” while meeting someone for the first time, a more accurate statement would be, “there’s no fucking way I will remember your name after hearing it just once.” And that’s not the best way to make a first impression.

4. Leftovers. Dunno why, something about a heaping melange of free-form glop in a condensation-filled plastic container just doesn’t flip any switches for me. Plus have you ever had to eat leftover Kraft mac-n-cheese? If you didn’t know it was nuclear waste before, you will figure it out quickly.

5. The iPad. Yes, I do have one. I didn’t steal it, but I also didn’t pay for it, so I am free to be critical of it. And to me, it’s nothing more than an ostentatious way of telling people you can and do choose to buy titanically pointless electronic crap. I’ve seen some nice examples of it being used to help disabled kids communicate, so in the “accessibility” sense I can admit that it does have some merit. But for the rest of the people that bought one… wtf? This guy on a plane ride next to me had his out and was reading a book on it, and he was actually LICKING HIS FINGERS when he turned the pages. There was also the douche-bag that brought his out at a crowded bar on a Saturday night — these are the people that buy iPads. It’s not a segment of the population that you should want to identify with.

6. Repetitive TV Shows. I actually hate them BECAUSE I like them so much. This particular sub-heading could be a detailed look into why each of these shows is highly repetitive, but I’ll spare you. The point is though, if you are able to obtain (read: download) all of the available series(es?) and watch them in marathon-style sequential order, you’ll agree with me. Here’s the list:
Top Gear. Highly predictable, yet highly entertaining British motoring show.
Lie to Me. Kind of a crappy Fox drama, but it’s still entertaining.
House. Sorry, it’s predictable as hell. But still entertaining.
…this brings me to something else…

7. Obvious Social Errors in Cinema. The MOST obvious of these is the way people interact during cell phone conversations; sometimes, it’s almost like the writers don’t think the people watching the screen have ever used a cell phone before. Don’t you usually go through the “hey what’s up” stage of the conversation for the first like, 5-10 seconds? And when you’re getting off the phone, don’t you usually have to say “bye,” or something, ANYTHING, that indicates that the conversation is coming to an end? I understand that certain measures are taken to keep the length of features down to a manageable level, but I wonder if it wouldn’t help the believability of the film to just have that extra five seconds of dialogue that will make the phone conversation sound more realistic.

8. Apartment Managers/Landlords. With a few notable exceptions, most of the landlords or managers I’ve interacted with have been totally inept. Think about it: the job of the apartment manager is just that — another job. It’s a little more attractive than most jobs, being that it potentially offers free or reduced rent rates, but with that benefit comes the RESPONSIBILITY to MANAGE your apartment building. One of our former apt managers had the unit above us, and it was the only hardwood-floored unit. And he wore heeled shoes at all times. I talked with him about it more than a few times, and he was always apologetic for the moment, but then would go right back to his closet full of cowboy boots or whatever the fuck he was wearing all the time. And landlords…? I wonder what percentage of landlords that own and operate properties ever actually wanted to be landlords. My guess is that it’s more something that you just end up doing because you have the opportunity, not because you give a shit about keeping your extra properties nice. It’s about the laziest way to make a living I can think of. Fuck, I need to be a landlord.

Before you get all uptight and start crafting a defense of your position, girls, I want to let you know that this post is a bit of a joke. While some of the ideas suggested below are true in some way, most of them are total assumptions or complete fabrications. In no way do I intend to belittle your accomplishments, ladies.

1. You’re a cheerleader? Statement of fact: the coolest thing about being a cheer guy is stunting (remember that). But in order to learn to stunt, you have to be in some way involved in a cheer team. While that’s not something that we’re embarrassed about (anymore), I happen to know that “hmm… should I tell anyone that I’m on cheer?” thought that presents early in the onset of becoming a guy cheerleader. Plenty of rednecks people still think all cheer guys, regardless of their sexual orientation, are totally gay. While this is just a demonstration of their own lack of understanding for what we do, it is a misperception we have to deal with nonetheless. The easiest way to butch yourself up is to change your facebook profile pic to a shot of you doing a cupie. It’s true — look through any cheer guy’s profile pictures and 100% of the time you will see pictures of one-armed stunts.

2. Hot Girls. No guy wants to look like an inept little bitch around a group of hot girls. But, especially when a guy is first learning to stunt (that is, before they’ve begun to fully understand the cheer relationship dynamic), they are much more inclined to think that failing to “get good” quickly is seen as weakness. And so when you’re dropping hands for two months, you probably feel pretty retarded. Almost as retarded as you’ll feel after you realize nobody cared that you sucked at first — it’s all part of learning.

3. Motions. Because the one place you learn to stunt is in the confines of a cheer team, you will more than likely be subject to the “motions” plague. Motions are a combination of arm movements that sync with the girls’ choreographed dances, which are intended to make the guys standing in the back look less retarded while the girls dance in front of them. It’s sort of like if you have a 2-year old nephew that you’re babysitting while you’ve got a few bros over at your house — you’d give him a wooden spoon and a pot to bang on while you three jam out on your guitars. The point is that he thinks he’s involved, even though absolutely no one is paying attention to him. And what’s worse is that even though no one is watching you hit the motions (except maybe your parents), if you’re out there and you DON’T do them, you’ll look even more retarded. Sweet.

4. Meg Motions. Surprisingly, just the action of waving your urethane cone (sounds dirty right?) around usually doesn’t warrant much attention. However, meg motions can be more interesting when they introduce the opportunity of causing physical harm to others/yourself if you/they screw up. It’s like this: you know full well that you never watch Nascar racing, but if if you flip to it and there’s a huge crash, you’ll probably wait to change the channel until you see the full extent of the carnage. Well, the dynamic is the same: everyone watches the girls dancing in front of the guys until someone in the back screws up and blasts Kris in the face (I felt bad even though it was his fault).

5. Dropping.

a) Just dropping alone is embarrassing enough. For the most part, coaches will restrict full squad stunting to the lowest common denominator, but even then there will be some people struggling to press out those extensions. What could be more demeaning than to have the WHOLE SQUAD restricted to toss extensions because of YOU, and then to have you drop your stunt when you’re out there in front of everyone. Yea… bummer.

b) You and your partner are just that: a team. You want to avoid inflicting physical pain on your teammate as much as possible. Who do you think is responsible for it if your girl falls from the top and hurts herself? YOU ARE. Regardless of who else is around, you are your primary spotter, and if she hurts herself that is solely on you. Protect this house, bitch.

6. Tossing. Yea alright this is a given, and I know you girls have to have some strong damn legs to do your part of the toss, but the fact is it’s called a “toss.” And we toss you.

7. Tumbling. If you look the through your cheer team’s roster, you’ll likely find that 80-90% of the girls on the team cheered in high school, which generally means they have some tumbling experience. The remainder of the girls on the team will be either ex dancers or gymnasts, or something that gives them an advantage when it comes to tumbling. On the other hand, while some cheer guys are fortunate enough to have a gymnastics background, the vast majority of guys recruited for cheer are just going to be your average Joe that was tricked into it by a hot chick. That means that most cheer guys are starting from square one in the tumbling department, and at age 20 that can be a challenging hill to climb.

8. Tossing Baskets. Consulting one’s own common sense should reveal that having four testosterone-fueled dudes propel a 102 lb girl as high as possible into the air is not a good idea. However, the rule of thumb for cheer guys is that if what’s being described sounds as unbelievably dangerous as it is awkward, then it’s probably something you’ll have to do. I know that flying a basket is probably the most nerve-wracking thing a cheer girl has to do, but have a quick think about what us guys are going through: any (even slight) miscalculation that the flier makes either during the toss or in the air has to be addressed in a few milliseconds and acted against by three dudes below that are uh… holding hands. If the worst should indeed happen, as many guys as are available will readily sacrifice their own bodies to keep the poor little flier from slamming to the mat from 20 feet up. Lets just say that crab-walking backwards 10 feet below a flier sucks.

9. Pyramids. I guess pyramids are only as sucky as we make them. I really dislike tossing shoulders, but two guys of equal height that are good at tossing shoulders do the trick in a pinch. Of course if the pitch is too low, say goodbye to your skin, because your middle layers are going to fight tooth and nail to muscle that top girl up, and that means grinding some sticky cheer shoes into your shoulders. But then if the pitch was too low, it’s more than likely the guys’ fault. …which means that’s the hardest part, saved for us, yet again.

If you have a look at all of the sub-titles above, you’ll see that I’ve hit on just about everything that’s even remotely involved with cheer. Girls are interested in being college cheerleaders because they were high school cheerleaders. Guys that become college cheerleaders do so because they’re tricked into it by girls who don’t tell them the whole truth! I hope this exposé gives you some perspective, dudes. Fuck doing motions!

Epiphany

It’s a lot harder to feel bad about what you’re stuck with if you’ve long since forgotten what you used to have.

Getting re-acquainted with Seattle was my first mistake. When Amy and I packed up our stuff and made the long drive back to the Emerald City, the last thing I expected was to arrive back in Jackson a week later with a full-fledged exit strategy. Up until this past week, I had thought of people who wanted to leave Jackson and move back to wherever they came from kind of like quitters — you tried it and realized it was a little tougher than you imagined, so now you’re running home with your tail between your legs. And living in Jackson is hard, I would grant them that. But it’s not impossible, and with a little luck and determination, you can survive out here just fine.

But it’s tough to come back to just “surviving” when you get served a heaping reminder of how much more life used to be.

The theoretical “limitless possibility” bubble that was my perception of Jackson, WY has popped. All that’s left now is a handful of friends, a busy winter season and a sad, boring job to see me through. I’m sure once I put a few more weeks distance between myself and the fun trip home that just ended, this melancholy tangent will seem less poignant, but the fact remains: Seattle is home. It couldn’t have been made more clear.

I wish I could have spent more time with my friends out there — one week is not really enough time to re-connect with everyone. But we’re moving back, summer/fall 2011. I am looking forward to it!

I USE MSPAINT ALOT.

(tribute to all ALOTs everywhere.)

Teton Pass

I have to say, I’m pretty stoked to have made it up Teton Pass on my bike today. I’d been eyeing the ride for a while, and had ridden the Spring Creek hill a bunch of times to get ready, but nothing could have really prepared me for the sheer brutality of that ride. It took me 50 minutes to get from Wilson to the top of the pass, and once or twice I thought I might not make it, but I made it up without stopping, and let me tell you–it was so sweet to finally arrive. And I hit over 55 mph on the way back down. …unofficially.

Anyways, check the link! Make sure to click “show elevation,” too. 😉

http://www.mapmyride.com/ride/united-states/wy/jackson/566127966993743023

Swift Creek

In an attempt to keep our crop of bug bites going from weekend to weekend, Amy and I made plans to head up into the Gros Ventre Wilderness Southeast of Jackson, to a destination called Shoal Falls. The drive out there is a little longer than the drive to the park, and the last 10 miles was on a crappy, pot-holed dirt road, so it felt a lot more like backpacking in Washington.

Not knowing anyone who had been to this destination before, we resorted to following some directions downloaded from Trails.com, which turned out to be the biggest letdown of the entire trip. They did, however, get us to the parking circle without too much difficulty, and even there the views were gorgeous.

The Parking Circle
From the Parking Circle

After gathering our stuff, we considered our options. According to our map and directions, the trail for this trip apparently meets again with the parking lot after a 12 mile loop, with Shoal Falls being at the furthest point from us. Given that information, “we” thought that it wouldn’t really matter which side of the loop we started from, so we picked what looked like the long side and started up the path. Now, the people that I’ve spoken to who are familiar with the trail network in the Gros Ventre Wilderness have all basically said the same thing: it’s a mess. Right off the bat, it was tough to decide which sign pointed where, as there were more trails than arrows and designated paths than were indicated on the sign. No worries though, we had our uber-accurate trails.com directions to help us out!

After some discussion, we settled on one path and started up it. Only a few minutes in, I noticed a birds nest just above eye level in a tree right off the trail. I couldn’t see inside of it, but I could reach my camera over the top to take a shot!

Robin Chicks

A few minutes further along, we spotted a small and rather naive buck along the side of the trail. He seemed pretty accustomed to human presence.

Small Buck

The trail winds through the forest along the side of Swift Creek — and in case anyone out there ever uses the trails.com directions, their map indicates that the trail is on the incorrect side of said creek. Just fyi.

Swift Creek

After maybe a mile or so, the trail meets with the creek, and seems to just disappear. We blundered along the overgrown bank for a minute or two before coming to the conclusion that there’s no WAY this is still a trail. Arriving back where the trail and the creek met, I noticed some logs that before looked like they had just fallen across the stream — not so. Three 7″ diameter logs were the makeshift bridge. Happy to have found that the trail continued on the other side of the creek, we continued on. …until a few feet later, the trail hit an unsigned junction. Without any real clue which way to go, we gambled on the left side and kept walking.

At about that time, this trail gets tough. It pitches up pretty steeply and doesn’t quit until you’re up the entire valley and through a couple of snowy basins.

The View Down The Canyon
pano2

The first basin (above) was a welcome relief, because you get to walk along flat ground for the first time in hours. Amy made an off-handed quip about maybe just wanting to camp here instead of pushing on to our destination. Little did we know…

Above that basin, we entered a giant cirque that was still filled with snow. We had already been dealing with patches of it covering the trail in places, but here the trail became totally lost.

Upper Swift Creek Basin

The upper basin area was absolutely vast — I imagine it was formed by glaciers many years ago, judging by its immense size. It’s hard to really understand the magnitude of these kinds of areas from pictures alone — they can’t really convey depth in a meaningful way, so I will say right now that the shot I’ve provided sucks. For a scale reference though (Washington folks), it was like standing in the bottom of the Columbia River Gorge.

swiftCreek-1-3

By now, a few things were obvious: first, the trails.com trip distance estimation was totally incorrect. We had come in at least 4 miles, and judging by the provided map, were only 1/3 of the way through the trip to Shoal Falls (not even the whole loop). Second, it was completely impossible to know where the trail went – by now it was covered under several feet of snow with no indication that it even existed! Begrudgingly, we both agreed that we had been outmatched by the snow and let down by our directions, so the best idea would be to head back down to the basin we saw before. On our way back down the trail, we were treated to some views we hadn’t noticed on the way up!

pano1

All told, our “consolation prize” campsite wasn’t a bad spot at all. We set up the tent right next to the stream, and I built a fire pit out of some big loose rocks that had been washed downhill in the creek’s last flood cycle.

The sun started setting and soon our little valley was in the shadow of Antoinette Peak, but the sun illuminated Corner Peak behind us for a lot longer. Our tent and fire pit are visible in this picture if you look closely!

swiftCreekHDR

As we watched the sun retreat along Corner Peak, we built a fire in our new fire pit. Big trees here, I might add.

swiftCreek-1-2

As it got dark, a myriad of photo opportunities presented themselves.

Firepit
Moonlit Antoinette Peak
Our campfire and Antoinette Peak in the light of the moon.

We weren’t quite able to hold out until the moon rose over the Corner Mountain massif, but a few minutes after we crawled into our tent, the eerily bright glow washed over us. We turned in and had a relatively comfortable night sleep, considering that our tent was pitched on a pretty awful mixture of dirt, peat gravel and washed rock!

Since we did this trip as an overnight, we spent most of the morning hopping around the immediate area taking pictures before we packed up and headed back down the trail.

Campsite in the Basin
Fireside Setup

Swift Creek

Amy by Swift Creek

Morning Butter Cup

The trail back down to the truck was one giant descent down the steep, rocky trail we had climbed the day before. By our calculations, it took us only about half as long to make the journey – 4 hours up, 2 hours down. There was a falls we had noticed on the way up, but we knew it wasn’t our destination so we didn’t bother to stop and take photos. On the way back down though…

Swift Creek Falls

In all, the trip was a successful failure. I won’t ever bother with trail directions from trails.com again; this was too miserable a failure to overlook. I’ll also not expect the path to be visable on North-facing slopes above 9,000 ft. until later in the year — probably much later. We’ll also probably take the short way to our destination around any subsequent loop trails. But in all, we had a good trip and enjoyed some striking vistas. At the very least, it was a good way to be introduced to the Gros Ventres.