Skiing The East Face of Taylor Mountain In The Tetons
Location: Taylor Mountain, Teton Range, Wyoming
Trailhead: Coal Creek Parking Area
Distance: 3.75 miles
Time: 2 to 4 hours
Top Elevation: 10,352 ft / 3155 m
Vertical: 3150 ft
USGS Maps: Teton Pass, Rendezvous Peak
After skiing subpar and sporty conditions in the Big Sky area, Nick Warndorf and I hopped in the car and skirted the western flanks of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to meet up with Spencer Hennigan and set up shop for a few days in the sleepy mountain town of Victor, Idaho. With a deep and relatively stable snowpack, we were all excited to see what the Tetons had in store for us. First stop – Taylor Mountain.
Taylor Mountain sits on the western side of the Teton Range in Wyoming’s Jedediah Smith Wilderness area. Its summit sits at 10,352 feet (3155 m) and can be seen clearly as you cruise westbound on Highway 22 over Teton Pass.
Taylor Mountain is a popular ski destination. Backcountry skiers and snowboarders can ski many different aspects of the mountain and many safe routes exist. Be sure to choose your route wisely because avalanches on Taylor’s East Fce have claimed lives before. There are some good photos of avalanches on Taylor on TetonAt.com.
To access Taylor Mountain, we parked in the Coal Creek parking area on the north side of the highway (Coal Creek Campground on USGS map). When heading eastbound, the lot is located before the road starts to get steep. It’s a busy parking lot and is a hotspot for skiing the pass and thumbing back to the top. There’s a great image of Taylor Mountain in the Jackson Hole Ski Atlas – a must-have book for everyone who skis in the Tetons. Be sure to pick one up.
Our crew crossed Coal Creek and immediately started skinning up the South Ridge. We quickly cruised uphill in a well established skin track that had a few too many steep sections for the conditions – especially for Nick and his rando setup: Volkl Chopsticks with Dynafit Radicals.
With a steep gain of 3150 feet, Taylor Mountain is a classic ski in the area. As the clouds moved in and out we had outstanding views of The Do-Its, Mount Glory, Big Piney, and Calvert’s Ridge. There’s so much skiing to do in this area. I’m always impressed with the Tetons.
Following the south ridge, we had a good look at the steep and committing southeast face. It was riddled with terrain traps, cliff bands, and flagged trees. We already knew it, but this was definitely avalanche territory.
When we reached the summit of Taylor Mountain at 10,352 feet the clouds closed in completely. As we stood above the infamous East Face, looking ominously down into a white abyss, we briefly debated following the ridge to a safe, treed line for visibility.
Before we committed to anything, the skies opened up. Visibility improved and we could scope out the entire face. We consulted again, made some snow observations and decisions, then we center punched the East Face of Taylor Mountain.
Skiing the East Face of Taylor is a committing line. There are not too many safe zones and the bottom is full of deep, scary, terrain traps. We dropped in one at a time and ripped turns down grippy dust on crust. We regrouped once amidst some older growth trees, then cut to skier’s left to avoid terrain traps and play it safe.
At the bottom Nick, Spencer, and I gawked at our fresh tracks down the East Face of Taylor. From the summit to the valley floor is approximately 2700 feet with an average incline of about 35 degrees. It’s not very often where the snowpack, group, and weather align to ski Taylor like that.
Now all we had to do was follow the established luge track along Coal Creek back to the car. After 4 hours we were sitting on the tailgate of the Tacoma, enjoying the June-uary weather, and thinking about the beers we would soon have at the Grand Teton Brewing Company, which was just down the road. Good day all around.
Check out our route on Hillmap.
Here are a few more pictures from skiing Taylor Mountain:
The East Face of Taylor Mountain was skied on January 11, 2014.