For most climbers, cold weather comes with the terrain—literally. Depending on personal experience, the length of the trip, and your general health, low temperatures may prove prohibitive for stretches of the winter season. While there is no consensus on “how cold is too cold,” many climbers won’t camp out if temperatures are lower than –10F. However, temperature isn’t the only factor to consider when deciding to head out on a cold day. Moisture, wind, and cloud cover are all essential to make smart, informed climbing decisions.
If you decide to head out in subzero weather, you should take several safety precautions. First, you should check for avalanche warnings in your climbing area. The Bridger Teton Avalanche Center has updated information for those looking to plan winter and spring excursions. Second, you should provide several people with your itinerary. Though it is always smart to alert friends and family to your whereabouts, cold weather presents additional chances for danger. Finally, you must dress for the occasion, wearing several layers of moisture-wicking material, as well as the appropriate equipment.
While some might feel comfortable venturing out into the cold, others will want to seek out alternative activities. If you’re looking for substitutes to climbing on cold winter days, consider picking up a pair of skis and exploring the powder. In the Teton Range, you’ll have a couple of alpine options to choose from: resort skiing and backcountry skiing. Each presents its own benefits and disadvantages, but both are sure to provide an excellent time.
Resort Skiing—Regardless of weather, conditions, or skill, you’re nearly guaranteed a run or two at a ski resort. Resort skiing is a safe and popular option among winter sport enthusiasts. If the weather turns sour, you’re never more than a few minutes away from the safety and security of the lodge. Plus, the Teton Range has several impressive ski resorts to choose from. Though you won’t experience the thrill of discovery that you might while climbing, resort skiing can pack an adrenaline punch.
Backcountry Skiing—Similar to mountaineering, backcountry skiing incorporates aspects of other outdoor activities: hiking and climbing. Backcountry skiers explore unmarked and unpatrolled areas of the wilderness. However, backcountry skiing is significantly more dangerous than resort skiing; only experienced winter athletes should attempt this type of skiing in the Teton winters.
Discover a Love of Winter Sports
Whether you want a break from the wall or simply can’t justify heading out on a multi-day climb, the Teton range has additional winter sports options you may want to consider. Perfect for every ability level and preferred experience, skiing the Tetons is one of the best alternatives to climbing available.