Jackson Hole has a legendary run called Corbet’s Couloir which everyone who ever skis or rides there hears about. There’s a drink named for it at the bar, reserved only for those
who have done the deed, and it is famous enough to have its own Wikipedia page as well as numerous news reports and video clips on YouTube showing people attempting the feat.
Corbet’s Couloir is located on the East Ridge at the top of the mountain, a short distance from the tram. For a long time it was marked off as a cliff area, but more recent editions of the trail map show it as a double-black run, which is still a bit of an understatement as you can see from the picture above.
For years we boasted that we would someday go down Corbet’s. How it actually ended up happening is this: it had just dumped seventeen inches the night before, and we were busily looking for the remaining untracked snow to mark up, which eventually brought us to the top of the mountain. We were going up and down Rendezvous Bowl via the new East Ridge double chairlift when Ryan spotted the opening of Corbet’s from all the people standing around the surrounding cornice looking down into it.
Neither of us had ever actually seen Corbet’s during the winter, just photos, so we decided to take a few minutes out of the day to hike over and peer down.
There happened to be a ski school instructor teaching a group of middle school-aged kids how to drop into Corbet’s, and they were slowly doing it, one by one. From watching the instructor and the kids dropping in, it became
obvious that we could do it quite easily. The conditions were perfect that day: the sun was out, a rarity on top of Rendezvous mountain, and there was a stash of soft powder at the bottom of the couloir. Ryan took a look down and he said something along the lines of “That doesn’t look so bad” and then a few moments later, “I’m going down”
Which he did, with little hesitation. He dropped
off the cornice, disappeared in a cloud of fine powder, and within a few seconds he was standing at the bottom of the couloir. Since there is really no other way to get down to
that area of the mountain from where I was standing, that forced the issue for me, so I went down, too.
One second I was on the cornice, then there was a feeling of free fall, a soft landing marked mostly by an explosion of powder which covered me from head to toe, and I was still in control, sailing smoothly and happily through the lower half of the couloir in the best powder I’d been in all day.
It was so much fun that we ended up doing an encore later in the day. The second time we went down, I went first and kept my eye out for a mythical cave that I had heard about many times before. It turned out to be a small alcove carved into the precambrian rock which makes up the north face of the couloir. There was a plaque on it dedicating it to Doug Coombs and it
was decorated with a ribbon. We decided that
this alcove was the perfect place to have our
annual Shrimp Festival.