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Sunrise At Glory In A Time Of Climate Change

Sue Cedarholm's Watercolor Features Jackson Hole's Most Beloved Local Winter Landmark

Climbing Glory after the first big dumps and skiing the wondrous powder, there is a mystique. It’s part of the initiation that locals in Jackson Hole go through.  

The curve of 10,032-foot Mount Glory and her namesake bowl hanging high above the town of Wilson, Wyoming along Teton Pass, are what we idyll over in winter. There, where runs are not commercialized, cultivated and forest-girded like a vertical golf course fairway, heading to Glory is one of the few traditions that binds.

My first winter in Jackson was 1980 – 81 and it accompanied a severe drought. Teton Village, home of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, had to close early due to lack of snow. Jobs were hard to find with the lack of tourists. Jackson was not easy to reach in those days—no nonstop flights from the major cities.

My posse of friends all wanted to learn to telemark. I was a transplanted Coloradan used to groomed conditions.  We were up on Teton Pass in our leather boots and wooden cross-country skis, trying to make them turn but those skis were made to go straight.

We spent hours hiking up, crashing and falling on the way down yet we were determined and finally got the hang of it. All of us were good alpine skiers at the ski area; Teton Pass and Glory put us in our place.

As part of the working class, none of us could afford an annual pass at the Village so we skied the backcountry. Up there, you earn your turns. There is nothing like a quiet early morning, hiking up Glory, your lungs pulling in the cold air, and heart beating hard with the exertion.

Before you jump in, you stand on the summit with a feeling of accomplishment. Clipping on three-pin bindings and doing those wide sweeping tele turns in the deep, sometimes very deep powder, face shots are had all the way down making the trek up worth it.

Now the skiers ascending Glory have plastic boots, high-tech skis and bindings that you can clip your heel in for the descent. You don’t see many skiers telemarking anymore. The Pass is a busy place. On many mornings when people have freshie fetishes on the brain, you have to wait in line to park.  Still, as the line thins out and you have followed boot path to the summit, you still get that feeling of exhilaration—the kind that is hard to translate in a painting.

In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem we are surrounded by unbridled recreation and we are spoiled. These lands are free, in the sense we don’t have to pay for a daily ticket to go skiing.  Glory is part of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Having wild places and keeping them that way is our responsibility to the next generation.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of making skiing at the resort, riding chairlifts and getting a lot of turns in. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, few realize, is also located on our public land as a leaseholder with Bridger-Teton. Multi-use has its setting and context but most places cannot do it all—having wildlife and being a human playground. Once you lose the former we cannot get it back.

This year, so unlike the dumpages of early winters past, we’ve been waiting for the reliable dumpages to come.

These clear, cold mornings make for gorgeous sunrises, but we want more snow. We had feets’ worth early in the season and there is still a good snowpack in the higher mountains.

But this December, the valley floor is still brown—yes, brown— which is worrisome for the ski resorts and a backcountry that needs the precip in order to escape the flame in 2018.
"Keep close to Nature’s heart…break away once in awhile and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”  —John Muir
Is this a sign of the future? Today, snowmaking machines are roaring just getting enough snow on the slopes so you can ski to the base. Fires are raging in California and it is snowing in Atlanta and in Mexico. Change is upon us.

To quote John Muir, “Keep close to Nature’s heart…break away once in awhile and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”

Those of us lucky enough to have easy access to wildness know this and that is why we choose to live here.  At what point do the trends of weather morph into a statement of climate?

Sue Cedarholm
About Sue Cedarholm

Jackson Hole-based Sue Cedarholm is a multi-media artist—painter, photographer and maker of nature-themed, wearable apparel.  You can find all of the works in her ongoing series at Watercolor Diary.
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