Backcountry Squatters Takes Jackson Hole
I crashed the Backcountry Squatters ski trip and it was hands down the best decision ever.
This past fall, a company called Outside Life reached out to us about helping organize a winter ski trip to Jackson Hole for Backcountry Squatters. I reached out to our college clubs to see if there was any interest, which of course there was, so I took it and ran: Backcountry Squatters was going to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
But wait, I wanted to go to Jhole too (because FOMO?). With some deep roots in the Tetons, it felt right to crash the Squatters winter trip, so I hatched a plan to do so, and invited the BCS Nonprofit team for anyone who could make it happen. Bless her heart, Andie (Board President + Co-Founder of Backcountry Squatters) was out west for holiday break and was able to make it down for a ski day at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Leading up to the trip, we organized everything on the Squatters App. All people coming were invited to a private group where they could meet their roommates along with the other group members and keep everyone posted on their treacherous travels that were bound to happen as you drive to Jackson Hole, WY in January. I let everyone know our plan was to come over for a chill day of skiing on the 4th and there was “no-pressure” to spend the day with us if they didn’t want to.
On the morning of our group day, during the drive over Teton pass (we were staying in Teton Valley, ID) I was nervous for sure. Two old ladies (lol we are 27) were crashing the college Squatters trip… what if they thought we were annoying? What if they thought we weren’t cool? What if no one wanted to ski with us? What if my body gave out? My anxiety was reeling but fortunately I was able to drown most of these thoughts out with a few cups of coffee (Treeline-of course), a Stilson lot burrito (classic), and some words of encouragement from the most supportive Board President a girl could ask for (I’m talking about Andie, obvi).
We put our boots on. Talked about our outfits. Put some new stickers on Andie’s new skis. Gathered some shitty content for TikTok (because content is always on the mind of anyone in charge of media). And then got on the bus to JHMR. Andie and I decided to take a tram lap before meeting up with the Squatters (get the nerves out a lil ya know!?). We got to the top of Rendezvous and there was a surprising 7” of new snow. Did we know it had snowed? No, of course not. We didn’t check the mountain report- we were just thinking about skiing with the Squatters.
We met at the top of the Bridger Gondola. I made everyone stand in a circle and introduce themselves-name, pronouns, where they were from, what school they go to (surprisingly enough, I have never been a camp counselor). On this day, we had 4 Squatters from CU Boulder and 4 Squatters from the University of Utah (+ myself and Andie). There was a mix of abilities, home-town ski areas, and experiences with powder. Before this trip, no one had been to JHMR before. I consider Jhole to be one of my home mountains (yeah, there’s multiple – maybe like 4 – but that’s a different story) I got to play tour guide for the day!
We skied everywhere. Let me tell you from experience, skiing with a group of 10 people with various backgrounds can be tricky, but this just felt right. Everyone was comfortable choosing their own path, waiting for others, and providing an overwhelming amount of encouragement in tight places (like titty towers aka tower 3), as people hit jumps, or struggled through the deep snow and flat light. The chairlift conversations ranged from Backcountry Squatters, to tummy issues, to relationships, to career moves, to favorite songs, and so much in-between. Again, they just felt easy- as if I had met all of these people before this trip.
We had lunch (and diet coke) over at Casper lodge and I was thoroughly jealous of all the bright young individuals who brought their own kibbles as I spent some audacious amount of money on lodge food. After lunch, as the sun started peaking out, we got on the tram, and I got to experience the joys of teaching the pack how to get a prime window seat for views of the Grand Teton (and suffer the weird looks for the old locals as I was teaching ‘out of towners’ their tricks). At the top of rendezvous mountain we took some group photos (because this was also a big #contentmommy moment for me) that are now hanging in my office, and moved on to experiencing the longest skiing in the lower 48 (Can someone tell me if this is even true because even the mountain host couldn’t verify this *fact* that I have completely made up in my mind?!).
At some point, I looked back behind me and saw the most beautiful site. Andie is one of those skiers who will look for little jumps everywhere. Mogul field? More like a jump field. So as Andie was going down a cat track hitting little jumps, the entire pack behind her was also following her lead and hitting the jumps. Talk about a smile that hurts your cheeks. A few brave souls sacrificed their legs to come ski the Hobacks with me for the last run of the day, we said hi to my birds (IYKYK), we got some weird looks from Village legends (lol sorry Benny), and we continued on to have a weird experience as I almost took us to a lift that had already closed (who doesn’t love a good bush-wack).
After a full ski day we met up at Roadhouse brewery for dinner, drinks, and good ol’ conversation. At some point during dinner, I was just sitting there listening to the various conversations around me. Most of these people had not met before this trip, but because of their shared experiences both within Backcountry Squatters and their outdoor lives, it seemed like they had been friends for years. Not to get sappy- but I will hold onto that moment for a long long time. It’s a reminder of why I am here, doing what I am doing, as a volunteer Executive Director of an organization that is SO much larger than me. At the end of the night, I made a group of boys take our photo under the antler arch (because that’s what you do when you go to Jackson) and then we sent the young Squatters off to enjoy the rest of their evening and the rest of their week in Jackson.
And Andie and I went home to our beds. Hearts full. Legs tired. Chit-chatting the whole drive home about our day and the larger impact of this community we are building.
The next day Andie and I ripped groomers at Grand Targhee (another one of my 4 home mountains), ate Wydaho Nachos from the Trapp, and spent a hefty amount of time reflecting on the day before and dreaming/ planning for the future. I don’t want to mis-represent us here. Andie and I are friends outside of Backcountry Squatters (even though I used to claim we weren’t lol). We talk about work, school, relationships, dogs, health, family, all the normal things the twenty-somethings discuss, but I would guess a solid 50% of our conversations come back to Backcountry Squatters. Is it because we are psycho-nicos who cannot walk away from work or because this organization continues to shape us and impact us in positive ways that we like to reflect on? I like to think it’s the latter but it may be a bit of the former too… We have now been growing and developing Backcountry Squatters for close to 8 years, and this trip was the first time that we have actually organized a meetup between multiple BCS chapters. The results were heartwarming for sure, but they were also extremely impactful. We got to witness first hand the effect that Backcountry Squatters is having on college aged women and the benefits of creating a nation-wide community network. TBH I cannot really put it into words how important this trip was for us, but it was and I am so glad that the co-founder of Backcountry Squatters (and my ultimate cheerleader/life coach) got to be there to witness it.
A week later, head still in a cloud, I had the Jhole trip participants load their photos from their trip into a google photos album. As any good mom would do, I went full stalker through that album. After Andie and I had left them, the Squatters skied together, rode the tram, practiced their tricks, went to hot springs, danced at the bars, had *interesting* hotel experiences, saw some wildlife, explored some of Teton Pass’s best backcountry skiing, and made some lasting friendships with Squatters at different Universities (talk about core memories man). Again, this is something I will hold onto forever and the importance of these meetups will forever be ingrained on our brains as we plan the next one. I can’t wait to crash it.
A huge shout-out to all the Squatters who joined us on our first trip-and helped us learn along the way. These memories would not be possible without you!
Aka Executive Director of Backcountry Squatters Nonprofit