You could argue forever about what's the most classic ski mountaineering objective in the Tetons without ever reaching an agreement. The East Face of 11,939-foot Buck Mountain is always on the list though. Perhaps the easiest of the park’s high peaks to access, Buck has a beautiful summit, with views down into the south fork of Avalanche Canyon, out at the Wall and Snowdrift Lake and north to the southern aspects of the South Teton, Cloudveil Dome, and Wister.
What Makes It Great
Formerly only done in the spring, it's now skied year-round. Whenever you ski it though, don't do it lightly. It's steep and has the potential for avalanches. Buck’s East Face is not trivial. A band of cliffs cuts across its middle. If you fall above these and are unable to self-arrest, you might be in some serious trouble. The cliffs are probably 200-feet. The slopes above are between 40- and 45-degrees. The easiest way to Buck's summit is the East Face slope. The East Ridge might be more interesting, but it doesn't allow you to check out the snow conditions you'll be skiing. That choice is a personal one. Whether you ascend via the East Face or the East Ridge, I recommend skinning up Nancy’s Draw, which is also known as Static Draw, rather than Stewart’s Draw, one valley to the north. It offers a more direct and less side hill ascent. Ascending via the East Ridge takes about 150-percent longer than ascending the East Face. Whether you go via the East Ridge or East Face, expect to trade skinning for booting around Timberline Lake.
Who is Going to Love It
Backcountry enthusiasts who are ready for a big day with great terrain - best done as a spring adventure, when slopes stabilize. There's some steep lines here, so it's best for experienced backcountry adventurers with a good eye for avalanche terrain.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Start from the Death Canyon Trailhead in Grand Teton National Park if you're doing this after May 1, when the Moose-Wilson Road is again open to cars. Between November 1 and April 30, park at the Bradley-Taggart Lakes trailhead and jump on a skin track heading south. At some point the skin track will head for Maverick, don't take that branch. Keep south on the Valley Trail.