Living in the land of snow
Located at 8,500 feet near the top of Togwotee Pass (Wyoming), my current and temporary home receives an average of 500 inches of snow each winter. Due to the snowfall and surrounding terrain, Togwotee Mountain Lodge has become known as the premier snowmobiling destination in the US.
In the past month, we’ve received lots of snow. I have quickly learned to assume that it will snow at least a little bit every day; only a few days have been snow-free. That means the cabins look like this.
To my consternation, now that we are open for the winter season, I have to contend with the whine of snowmobiles from 6:30am until 11pm or even later. Yuck.
Thankfully for someone like me who prefers human-powered sports, this pass also offers the best cross-country ski touring I have ever experienced. Ample snow, rolling terrain, and incredible views make for wonderful skiing.
Initially I was worried that I would have to contend with constant snowmobile noise, and that’s certainly possible. However, one of the routes borders designated Wilderness, and snowmobiles are rare there. Yesterday I skied for 5 hours, I was alone the entire time except for 1 group of 3 snowmobilers, and a dogsled group of 3 teams. Other than that – just me, the snow, and wonderful silence.
Now that there is enough snow coverage at lower elevations, next weekend I’ll start driving a few miles lower on the pass to some other routes. With luck, in a couple of weeks I should be able to enjoy some great ski tours in Grand Teton National Park.
Seeing dogsleds is pretty fun. Since we run trips out of our lodge (run by regular Iditarod racer Billy Snodgrass), I need to try this activity soon.
I’ve never lived anywhere that allows me to ski (literally!) from my door, so I have been taking full advantage of it, skiing every weekend, and even taking short laps around the property in the evenings after work.
I’ve hated snowmobiles for years – they are loud, obnoxious, and terrible polluters. But I’ve always recognized that they look like a hell of a lot of fun. So I have to try them at least once, right? I can’t work at this place and not give it a whirl. Employees are required to go with a guide, which is perfectly fine with me. It was just me, guide Kent, and our restaurant manager Alexis.
For anyone who has never tried riding in powder, trust me when I tell you it’s a lot of hard work! The sleds require definite skill to maneuver. I was pretty pleased that I only got stuck once.
After 4 hours of zooming along track and learning how to ride sleds in the powder, I asked Kent to whoop it up for a few minutes while I shot photos. He was pretty happy to oblige. The snow was more than waist deep!
After more than 5 hours, back to the lodge, dehydrated, smelly, and tired. But happy. And definitely excited to get back to my human powered sports soon!