Chris finds some float among the Wyoming trees Image:: Jock Gunn
Mountainwatch | Chris Booth
A great mountain is best revealed by its people. When you think of a mountain’s people you think of its locals. But they aren’t who I’m talking about. I’m not talking about mountain staff or marketing people either. No, the people who best reveal a mountain are its visitors.
The basic characteristic of being a visitor is the act of travelling from home to be in a new place. At its most basic it’s a choice, these people take leave, say goodbye to friends and family for a while, and spend the money they worked to save. They could be anywhere in the world, but they have chosen that place, and I find that revealing.
Nat Segal has chosen Jackson Hole as her base for the winter while she competes on the Freeride World Tour. Nat could be anywhere; the European Alps for example. They provide a diverse and consistent training ground that’s perfect for tour preparation as well as a base closer to the majority of the tour stops. But Nat has chosen Jackson. Thankfully Jackson has reciprocated the support, and she now rides as an ambassador for the Mountain.
Heading out and heading high, it’s the easily accessible steep sidecountry that keeps skiers flocking to Jackson Hole every year Image:: Jock Gunn
Nat’s boyfriend Blake has wrangled two month’s leave from his job as a lawyer in his native New Zealand, just to be in Jackson. Corporate life is a hard thing to step out of, and Blake could easily be one step closer to a promotion. He could be anywhere, but he’s in Jackson. He’s getting to know Jackson’s accessible back country as closely as possible, acquainting himself with its routes and learning its lines.
Then there’s Jock Gunn, a tall, jovial, and convincing guy gripped by a sense of the outdoors and an overwhelming eagerness to escape everything else. Jock isn’t on leave, he quit his job; wrapped in the cheapest Goretex he can find, Jock could be anywhere, but he’s in Jackson – for the winter that he says begins the rest of his life.
The prime location of the Teton range means that storms seemingly never stop hitting the mountains here, often the pow is followed by bluebird days Image:: Jock Gunn
Jock is in skiing for all the right reasons. He’s staying in the motel in Jackson town and eating on the cheap so he can ski everyday, something he comes pretty close to. He’s also not bothered about wearing his ski boots well into the night. Jock’s passion doesn’t just run deep, it’s bottomless.
As a ski destination Jackson Hole stands on its own and really needs no introduction. I knew all about Jackson without ever having been there. But were it not for Nat, Blake and Jock, these loose acquaintances who welcomed me into their lives at a day’s notice, I would never have seen Jackson Hole they way I did. I would never have understood quite so well why Jackson is what it is, and I would certainly never have had that “now I get it” moment.
Traversing a classic Teton Mountains ridge line to get the goods Image:: Jock Gunn
PR people and marketing and brochures are great, but it’s the visitors who rearrange their lives just to be there, paying for the privilege, who are a ski resort’s best ambassadors. They are the one’s who are living the brand message, the true believers who, if you give them a chance, can really tell a mountain’s story.
A quick note to Jackson Hole: your website is nice and your facebook page is cool and everything, but if you see Nat, Blake or Jock at the VC or Mangy Moose after a day’s skiing, buy them a beer.
I reckon you owe them one!