Snow Report 2005

I Lead, You Follow: Doug Coombs on the edge above Jackson Hole     Photo: Jeff Lipsky

Guided Descents
Go Way Out of Bounds
Widely viewed as the most challenging downhill slope in the lower 48, Wyoming's 13,771-foot Grand Teton is characterized by icy snow and lethal exposure. The two-day, 7,000-vertical-foot descent had never been nailed by a commercially guided client until June, when EXUM MOUNTAIN GUIDES' Doug Coombs, 44, and Mark Newcomb, 37, escorted Cameron Romero, 38, of Park City, down via a ski-belay system they developed that lets the client ski normally with a rope attached to his harness. Exum (307-733-2297, www.exumguides.com) maintains that the Grand is far too tough to open it to just anybody. "This is going to be a rare event," says Al Read, the company's co-owner. "Conditions have to be perfect." But if Exum is comfortable with your skills (that is, how you did on previous, tamer Tetons expeditions with the company), a guide will take you up and down Wyoming's most imposing mountain for a cool $1,650.—R. S.

Air Time
Go Huck Yourself
SUGAR BOWL, CALIFORNIA: The closest ski area to San Francisco, Sugar Bowl (530-426-9000, www.sugarbowl.com) is the proud owner of—in the immortal words of Web blogger C. Horn, from Granite Bay, California—"big rocks to huck 'n' chuck your wares." Horn knows what he's talking about. The mountain is rife with couloirs, spikes, boulders, cornices, and knobs, and a majority of its leaps are manageable by most advanced skiers. The area's average annual snowfall of almost 500 inches promises soft landings, too. What's more, Eric DesLauriers, a former ski-film star, runs Sugar Bowl's advanced clinics through All-Mountain Ski Pros (full-day, $390–$440; 888-754-2201, www.allmountainskipros.com) and can show you how to handle off-piste air.
SQUAW VALLEY, CALIFORNIA: Like to watch? Carve a seat at the Palisades, a 300-foot-wide cliff band that explains why Squaw (800-545-5430, www.squaw.com) is considered by many to be the birthplace of American extreme skiing. And the countless Arriflex-toting cinematographers who flock to this pilgrimage site explain why the resort has been dubbed Squawllywood. Scot Schmidt, Shane McConkey, and dozens of other pro freeskiers have made their name on the steep, narrow chutes striping the Palisades. It's a voyeur's delight, with prime, front-row viewing available from the runout zone, Siberia Bowl. Note: Catch the show on weekdays; Squaw often closes the Palisades on Saturdays and Sundays to keep weekend warriors from staining the snow an unsightly red.—R. S.
Terrain Park
One Smokin' Pipe
The crew that built the 492-foot-long, 66-foot-wide SUPERPIPE ON BLACKCOMB MOUNTAIN, in British Columbia, like to joke that it's so big you can see it from space. A slight exaggeration, but the action will be easy to spot when the likes of Shaun White, Ross Powers, and Danny Kass give the halfpipe its first test runs, in the Snowboard World Championships, January 15 to 23. Located at Base II, the pipe is easily accessible for both spectators and groms itching to give it a go. One caveat: This beast will attract a trash-talking crowd, so expect no mercy if you execute a flailing face plant.—R. B.

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