Skiing the Four Hour Couloir in Grand Teton National Park
Location: Shadow Peak, Grand Teton National Park
Trailhead: Bradley/Taggart Parking Area
Distance: 7 miles
Time: 3 to 6 hours
Top Elevation: 10,725 ft / 3,269 m
Vertical: 3,775 ft
USGS Maps: Grand Teton, Moose
After a fun day skiing Taylor Mountain and an unexpected evening of adventure in Victor, Idaho, it was time to head to one of my favorite places – Grand Teton National Park.
At around 6 am, Nick Warndorf, Spencer Hennigan, Heather Puroll, and I hit the road heading eastbound over Teton Pass. We picked up the guru of splitboarding, Aaron Diamond, in Jackson and headed into GTNP.
Our ambitious goal for the day was to ski the Sliver Couloir on Nez Perce. We debated going up Garnet Canyon and skiing the Sliver from the top down or heading up Shadow Peak and booting up the couloir. We decided on the second option as it gave us more ski options, like the Four Hour Couloir, in case we changed our plans.
As we booted up in the Bradley/Taggart parking lot, we were asked to wear GPS trackers to help with a wolverine study in the area. We agreed – greedily hoping that this “study” would never affect our ski access to this zone. Then we hit the skin track.
While meander through moraines, the alpenglow lit up the Tetons. As the mountain range glowed in the near distance, we scurried along trying to stay warm in the near zero temps. After a couple of miles and 750 feet of vertical, we encountered the base of Shadow Peak.
Shadow Peak sits at 10,725 ft / 3,269 m near the front range of the Tetons. Sitting on the north side of Avalanche Canyon, this mountain offers excellent skiing on many different aspects. Setting a steady pace, our group worked up the treed, east facing slopes of Shadow Peak.
In the trees we noticed some unique, fresh footprints amongst the surface hoar that we believed to wolverine. We quickly moved on as no one wants to encounter a wolverine in the woods. The slick skin track eventually mellowed out and followed a ridge. At an obvious bench before the final push to the summit of Shadow Peak we peered down the Four Hour Couloir.
At the summit of Shadow Peak, we stood in awe of a large avalanche on the east face of the Grand above the Otterbody. We scouted future ski lines and of course we took a good look at Nez Perce and the east facing Sliver.
The Sliver had not sluffed, but many similar aspects had sent large sluffs tumbling down the steep face of Nez Perce, so we opted out of skiing the Sliver. It will be there next time. Instead, we decided to ski the south facing Four Hour Couloir.
To ski the Four Hour Couloir, we skied about 200 vertical feet down the E-NE face of Shadow Peak back to the obvious bench on the ridge. We lined it up with the Broken Thumb Couloir on the north side of 25 Short. Once we were sure it was our line, we went skiing.
At this bench, the Four Hour Couloir drops off the south face of Shadow Peak through a steep treed roll over. We found one trip report that mentioned an encounter with a black bear here in midwinter. Glad that didn’t happen to us.
Dropping into the couloir, we encountered dust on crust that was warming as we skied. With a large group heading into a committing couloir that has been known to avalanche (read about that here), the group kept moving.
Leapfrogging from island of safety to island of safety we made our way down the 2200 foot Four Hour Couloir. There were plenty of safe zones tucked into the sides of the towering rock walls.
As the couloir opened up, we encountered some chunky avalanche debris that took careful negotiating. Soon after, we hit the sun/shadow line in the apron. There the snow changed form and we were treated with some glorious powder turns down to the floor of Avalanche Canyon. Those were definitely the best turns of the day. Soft powdery goodness always leaves smiles all around.
Now it was time to head back to the car. Jumping into the luge-like out track, we followed the drainage down to Taggart Lake. Freeing my heels from my Dynafit Radical STs, I made good speed across the frozen lake. Then it was smooth sailing back to the car as long as we dodged the snowshoers who were out enjoying the bluebird June-uary day.
It took us just under 5.5 hours to ski the Four Hour Couloir. We climbed a total of 3775 feet and covered approximately 7 miles round trip. At the car we de-booted and headed over to Dornan’s to appreciate the views and enjoy a frosty beverage.
Skiing the Four Hour Couloir with good friends is a great way to spend a day.
Here are some additional images from skiing the Four Hour Couloir in Grand Teton National Park:
See route on HillMap
This trip report for skiing the Four Hour Couloir is from January 13, 2015.