Young, Dumb, & Stupid
Riding the rattail to freedom
THE WHO: Wiggles, unlike bumps, don’t just appear. They are not the haphazard result of a bunch of gorillas oofing and grunting and throwing their own feces down the mountain. No, wiggles take time. They require focus, dedication, and teamwork, for one person cannot fashion a wiggle on his or her own.
Often, the vision for a wiggle resides among those who spend an inordinate amount of time in one particular locale on the mountain. They are the curators, the protectors—the ones who know how to draw a well-banked line around rocks, trees, and lift terminals. They are, of course, the lifties.
“We started talking briefly about wiggles, and we thought we should make one on the whole lift line,” says Dan Moncur, 27, who worked the Teton lift last winter at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
“Two mechanics and a supervisor, we just started following each other in a line. Then more and more lifties came over and that really set it in.”
THE WHAT: Wiggles, like Gaper Day, come to life in the spring when deep snow enables ruts in the pack and skiers celebrate by shedding layers and strife. A wiggle emerged last year at Squaw Valley in a mellow bowl of KT-22. Another was built at neighboring Alpine Meadows of the Roundhouse Chair. Snowbird has one in Little Cloud Bowl, another area that gets hammered by sunshine and tourists. Since the mid-1990s, Jackson Hole has boasted of its “worker wiggle” down Rendezvous Bowl. This snake, at 10,000 feet, gets so pronounced you can sometimes see it from the valley floor.
But the Teton Lift wiggle was diferent. It didn’t descend a wide-open bowl, but rather an of-kilter fall line right beneath the high-speed quad. Like a dirty rattail, it wound around trees, boulders, lift towers, and crossed a cat track. Total vertical drop: 1,722 feet.
THE WHY: By the end of March, the lifties working the Teton Lift had ridden the chair hundreds of times. They’d pretty much been there, done that. With Jackson sitting on a base depth of 10 feet, the creative juices started flowing. “Everything was looking good,” says Josh Bashaw, the chair’s 31-year-old supervisor. “It hadn’t snowed in a while and we thought, ‘Damn, we should put a wiggle in top-to-bottom on this thing and blow the doors of the smaller ones around the mountain.”
“It ended up being a bit of a monster,” he adds.
THE WTF: Like a gentle river cruise where all you needed was a tube, jorts, and a cold bevvie, the Teton wiggle started out mellow. But it jumped to Class V pretty quickly, making you wish you had a free hand to grab the oh-shit handle.
The trick was to start slow and in control. Speed, like heartburn after a big plate of nachos, came naturally. As the hill steepened, the wiggle dug down so deep that Elvis was spotted a time or two slapping high fives as you rocketed past.
Crouched in a gotta-poop tuck, the key was to roll your edges up high on the wall to dump speed. Suck down some air and then slingshot back into the trough. About halfway through, granite boulders emerged like sharks. If you could make these five or six harrowing turns, you had a chance. Most bailed at the cat track, about 300 feet from the lift station, exhausted and terrified.
“For me, it’s almost like riding a halfpipe,” says Bashaw. “Getting up on the banks, put your stomach up close to your throat, and see how fast you can do it without getting spit out.”
As the season ended and the wiggle melted into the soil, there wasn’t much carnage to report. A child or two may have been lost, but nothing major.
Life is so much more interesting thanks to bored lifties.Photo: Jay Goodrich