7 Wacky Winter Sports in Jackson Hole

Pond skimming is just one of the many unconventional activities on tap in Jackson Hole during the winter and early spring months.
Pond skimming is just one of the many unconventional activities on tap in Jackson Hole during the winter and early spring months. Geoff Stearns
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While the majority of people spend their winters skiing, snowshoeing, and other mainstream Teton recreation options, these unconventional activities add a unique and unusual touch to Jackson life in the winter. Enjoy the ice by drilling a hole in it and catching some fish at Jackson Lake, or grab your ice climbing gear and head straight on up the frozen water at Exum Ice Park. Strap on your fattest skis and head down Snow King before getting up enough speed to skim right across an icy pond at the annual pond skimming event.

Whether you decide to participate or spectate, these wacky winter sports in Jackson Hole are yet another way to savor the season of snow and ice in the Tetons.

Snow Kiting

Snow kiters use the wind to propel them while they glide along the snow.
Snow kiters use the wind to propel them while they glide along the snow. Grook Da Oger

Maximize your velocity by strapping skis on your feet and going snow kiting. This relatively obscure sport is growing quickly in Jackson, as one local group of devoted amateur riders, the Jackson Hole Kiters , works to introduce new people to the sport. They even invite newbies out with them. Togwotee Pass and areas near Bondurant are popular locations to give snow kiting a whirl.

Pond Skimming

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmPmSzB6olg&feature=youtu.be

Last year's pond skimming event at Snow King Mountain became a bit of a YouTube sensation, as one competitor conquered the pond only to slam into a spectator who was playing on her phone at the other end. Everyone was okay, but the video of the incident (above) went viral.

This event, held each spring at Snow King, invites competitors to race down the mountain and then attempt to “water ski” across a pond at the bottom. Conditions have to be just right for the event, so check Snow King's website regularly for information about upcoming pond skimming dates. (And if you do attend, be sure to put down your phone and pay attention to the competitors, lest you get clobbered and become the next viral sensation.)

Gelande Quaffing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEZIMJceYbI

According to local lore, the idea for gelande quaffing was conceived in 1986 by the Jackson Hole Air Force, an infamous group of skiers who ducked ropes and skied epically (and illegally) in the Jackson Hole backcountry before it was opened to skiers. Legend has it that the skiers were waiting for ski patrol to clear the mountain for opening during a storm that dumped 14 feet of snow on the mountain, and the bartender started sliding full beers across the bar to eager drinkers.

One day, a full beer slid right off the edge of the bar, and a quick-reflexed drinker snatched it out of the air and quickly downed the whole thing. With that, the fine art of “gelande quaffing” was born, drawing from the German word "Gelandesprung," which refers to ski jumping on skis with alpine-style bindings.

The Village Cafe in Teton Village began hosting the Annual Gelande Quaffing World Championships in 2008, and the tradition continues each winter. The competition even has official rules, with extra points for a handle catch, required 360-degree turns, and even “under the leg” catches and snags off snowboards.

Paragliding

Soar high above the Tetons on a paragliding adventure.
Soar high above the Tetons on a paragliding adventure. Courtesy JH Paragliding

Fly high above the snow-capped mountains on a paragliding flight. The top of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a popular spot for paragliders to learn the sport or hone their skills. Flights leave most days, as long as the weather conditions are good. Jackson Hole Paragliding offers tandem flights, lessons, and clinics.

Skijoring

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppvNYf1Bw80

In this sport, skiers rope up and harness themselves to a horse, and then the horse races down a racecourse as the skier hangs on for dear life, hopping off jumps and aerial features. Each winter, the Jackson Hole Shriners host skijoring and cutter races to benefit the Salt Lake City Shriners Hospital for Children.

Ice Fishing

With the right gear, ice fishing is a popular pastime for many Teton fishermen.
With the right gear, ice fishing is a popular pastime for many Teton fishermen. Joonas Lyytinen

Grand Teton National Park's Jackson Lake is a local hot-spot for ice fishing, where fishermen and women use jigs to fish beneath the ice.

But this ages-old technique isn't as easy as it may appear. If you're interested in trying it out, going with someone who has experience is advisable, especially at first. Be sure to avoid spots near moving water and test the stability before heading out. Snowshoes are often helpful to access the lake.

Grand Teton Fly Fishing offers a month-by-month fishing schedule that outlines the best spots to hit for fishing any time of year. December is often the first time fishing is possible on Jackson Lake, as the ice is usually thick enough, but always take precautions.

Ice Climbing

Grab your ice axes and crampons and hit the ice climbing wall this winter.
Grab your ice axes and crampons and hit the ice climbing wall this winter. Bernhard

Instead of slipping and sliding across ice, consider climbing up a frozen cascade at Exum Ice Park (formerly the Teton Ice Park before Exum Mountain Guides purchased it in 2013). Located at the base of Snow King Mountain Resort , this “no approach” climbing features great opportunities to learn from experts about the best climbing techniques and practice your moves in a safer setting.

Located behind the Love Ridge Condominium complex at Snow King, the 40-foot wall is created each year by pumping water over a retaining wall for a nice, icy coat. A variety of classes are offered, from beginner-level to expert classes and clinics on lead climbing techniques. Day passes are $20 and group and private lessons are available.

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