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Jimmy Chin on What It Takes to Ski the Grand in the Tetons

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Jimmy Chin climbing and skiing the Grand in the Tetons; Photograph by Andy Bardon

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Plan a long weekend in Jackson, Wyoming.

We generally think of Jimmy Chin as an amazing photographer and climber. But his first love is skiing, stemming back to making turns in jeans as a kid in Minnesota. He went on to ski Everest. Here he tells us about skiing the Grand and the skills you need to have mastered before giving it a shot.

Adventure: How many times have you skied the Grand?

Jimmy Chin: I think I’m on 17 or 18. I lost count after 15 a few years ago. There were a couple years while I was training to ski Everest when I would ski it three times a week. Those years added up pretty quick.

A: What face is this? Had you skied it before? What were you doing this day?

JC: This is at the top of the Ford Couloir. Yes, I had skied it before. I had just finished a shoot in the Tetons for a commercial client the day before and figured I would maximize my time at home with a quick lap on the Grand with my production crew. And yes, as you might imagine, I have a badass production crew!

A: Most people think of you as a climber and don’t realize you are also a badass skier…but you don’t live part time in the Tetons just to climb, right?

JC: I discovered and fell in love with skiing long before I started to climb. Skiing was really my first calling. As a kid, I grew up skiing in jeans in Minnesota. Yup … I know … but I lived for it, and I still do. Jackson is totally incredible for skiing. Between the Tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Teton Pass, and Grand Teton National Park, there is a lot of skiing to do—on piste, backcountry skiing, and ski mountaineering.

A: How good of a skier do you need to be to ski the Grand? I know you can get a guide to show the way.

JC: I think you want to be a very confident skier on steep, icy terrain. There isn’t a whole lot of room for missing a jump turn or losing an edge up there, and I’d imagine it wouldn’t be a lot of fun if you’re terrified. You also need to be in good enough shape so that your legs aren’t too wobbly after a big day of climbing. If you come up from the valley, it’s 7,000 feet of elevation gain. It also depends a lot on conditions. If it’s firm and icy up there, it feels pretty serious. If it’s perfect stable boot top pow or corn, it feels pretty mellow. The point being, you should be prepared for the worst.

A: You and Renan Ozturk were caught in a very serious avalanche in the Tetons a few years ago. How did that change your relationship with the Tetons?

JC: The avalanche changed my relationship with risk, not just my relationship with the Tetons. My risk calculus has shifted a bit for sure and I spend more time thinking about human factors that affect decision making. In terms of skiing in the Tetons, I still love it.

A: What are you up to this summer, in addition to being adorable baby Marina’s dad?

JC: I am shooting / working on several commercial projects in July. I’ll also be doing finish work on Meru, the feature documentary I have been working on. I’m embarking on a big personal project starting this year as well, so I’ll keep you posted on that ….

Photographer Andy Bardon used this gear: