The Up Down

Breckenwolf isn’t a big mountain. At 631 feet from top to bottom (give or take) you could say it’s just a few feet shy of Jackson Hole’s vertical drop. But as my wife often says, it’s not the size that matters, it’s how you use it. And one way to make a tiny mountain look huge is to strap on a pair of cross country skis and tackle it in both directions. All of a sudden, that 631 feet feels like Everest.

We had a skeleton crew for Whiskey Wednesday this week because some dudes are having babies, other dudes are sick and still others are just in trouble with their wives because of too many Whiskey Wednesdays. So, I headed to the mountain with just one other team member. I brought my cross country skis and he brought his AT gear and climbing skins. The plan was to ski up and down Breckenwolf until we felt like we accomplished something with our lives. And also drink some whiskey.

The first pitch of Breckenwolf is pretty mellow and my buddy and I are able to chat about current events as we make our way through the broad slope. I’ll skin up Breckenwolf half a dozen times during any given ski season, and every time kids inevitably stop to tell me I’m going the wrong way. They ogle over my skis, and demand to see the bottom so they can figure out how I’m climbing the mountain. I feel like an ambassador, like I’m introducing a new technology to an indigenous tribe.

The second pitch is steep and narrow, climbing an icy blue slope that’s too much for the fish scales on the bottom of my skis to handle, so I have to switchback across the hill. This is the part where it’s so hard, you can trick yourself into thinking you’re climbing a massive peak in a far off land. Like maybe there will be a hut full of Buddhist monks when you reach the top, and they will reward you with endless knowledge for your efforts.

There are no monks at the summit of Breckenwolf, but I do have a beer in my pocket, so we celebrate as more curious locals examine our gear.

Skiing down a mountain on cross country skis is not easy. Standing at the crest of the hill, looking for the easiest way down, Breckenwolf again feels massive. This must be how my kids feel when they come to the top; a mix of fear and excitement. My telemark turns are sloppy, and I fall often as I slide down the first blue slope, but I get the hang of it quickly and attack the mountain like a true beginner, cruising from side to side in wide arcs. My turns get less sloppy and I get into the rhythm as I genuflect down the hill.

By the time I hit the bottom, I’m giddy. One quick nip from the flask, and we head straight back up, climbing along the edges of the slope, and waving to the curious kids, like good ambassadors of Whiskey Wednesday.

Places to Go, Things to See: