Ahhh… Jackson Hole’s Legendary Hobacks…
They represent terrain that needs no introduction. Of course, that won’t stop us from trying.
For those who haven’t yet experienced the joy of skiing these legends, The Hobacks are three unique black runs at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. They funnel down the far left side of Jackson Hole’s tram-serviced Rondezvous mountain, alone. By themselves, they’re long enough to rack up more vertical than some entire ski resorts.
As the map states, they’re actually comprised of three separate runs – North, Middle, and South Hoback – but all it takes is your first trip down to see this area really skis like one giant, choose-your-own-adventure playground for the advanced skier.
And so, the terrain is colloquially referred to by a more abbreviated name – The Hobacks. For locals and in-the-know skiers alike, the word conjures up images of everything that makes Jackson Hole so great in the first place:
- Long, consistent, unrelenting steepness? Check.
- Often fantastic snow conditions? Check.
- Terrain gnarly enough to scare away the crowds, leading to inbounds, ski patrolled terrain that feels eerily similar to a backcountry experience? Check!
On a good day, it’s terrain unlike anything else in North America. Hit it right, and it’s likely to be the highlight of your entire Jackson Hole trip. (It sure was on my first visit!)
Yeah, but what about a bad day?
The only problem? Even for advanced skiers, there’s a few complications with blindly jumping into these three beasts, sight unseen. (Which, due to their location on the far corner of the mountain, intersected by exactly zero other runs, is the only way your can ski them.)
For one, their entrance is narrow, sketchy, and as previously mentioned, completely blind. And once entered, there’s no way to go except down.
For all 2,000+ vertical feet…
Many-a-ambitious skiers have entered unprepared, and subsequently gotten absolutely wrecked by terrain above their abilities or conditions which take no prisoners.
Complicating all this is Jackson Hole’s trail map system, which doesn’t really clarify between black and double blacks, and instead just classifies everything that’s sort of difficult as a black.
And so, SlopeLab’s here to break it all down for you, and help first-time Jackson Hole visitors ski away with one of the mountain’s best runs.
Step 1) Understanding the progression of Jackson Hole’s black runs
Not all black runs at Jackson Hole are created equal. But with a little insider knowledge, a first time skier can piece together a progression that ensures they never get too far over their head, and instead set themselves up for Hoback-skiing bliss.
I’d suggest pulling up Jackson Hole’s trailmap and following along:
In order of difficulty, from easiest to toughest:
- Kemmerer – This black running directly underneath the Teton Quad is about as easy as a black gets as Jackson Hole. Even better for our purposes, nearly the entire run can be seen on the ride up, so you can do plenty of scouting before you jump in. (Keeping in mind that stuff always looks easier from above!!) It’s typically groomed, but it will at least give you an idea of the sort of steepness you’re in for.
- Laramie Bowl – Although technically just a double blue, this is an open bowl of consistent steepness. Spend any length of time at Jackson Hole and you’re sure to see at least one sad soul sliding for days down this one.
- Wally World, Bivouac & Thunder – Three separate runs, but classified together here because of how similar they ski. All are steep blacks which are occasionally groomed. They’re also all short in length. From the top, you can see all the way down, so what you see is what you’ll get.
- Rendezvous Bowl – Accessed from the top of the tram. Although not quite as steep as the previous two runs, it’s ungroomed, so you’ll get a feel for the steepness under variable conditions. For your first time, make sure you hit this one in good visibility! (Definitely no fun for first-timers when you can’t see where you’re going.)
- Snag Tree – Accessed off the Tensleep traverse, this is typically groomed. When it is, it’s one of the steepest groomed blacks anywhere. Nearly identical pitch to the hobacks.
- Buffalo Bowl – skis very similar in terms of steepness and bumps as the Hobacks, with the benefit of being only half as long.
Step 2) Consider the slope’s aspect
On the morning of my first trip to Jackson Hole, I’ll never forget enthusiastically proclaiming to my ski-buddy how wee should head on over to The Hobacks!
That’s when a good-Samaritan local leaned over and saved us from a dreadful fate.
“Yeah, you probably don’t want to do that just yet. The Hobacks (and all the other blacks of South Pass Traverse) are southern facing. Because of freeze/thaw cycles, they tend to be really icy first thing in the morning. Much better to wait until the afternoon sun has had a chance to soften them up.”
And with that, he skied off, never to be seen from again, although he certainly saved up from a potentially miserable 2,000+ vertical feet of icy bumps!
And how right he was!
For that reason, I continue to recommend the unsung local’s advice. If it’s not a powder day – you’re better off skiing The Hobacks in the afternoon.
Step 3) This intermediate/advanced skier’s first hand experience putting the progression into action.
On my first visit to Jackson Hole, I used the above progression to make sure I skied one of the most iconic ski runs around… WITHOUT getting in over my head.
At the time, I’d classify myself as a solid intermediate-advanced skier. That said, I’d always heard Jackson Hole was a different animal, so I used my three days of skiing to cautiously work myself up to the Hobacks.
- I spent the morning warming up on the groomers underneath Apres Vous. (Which were awesome, by the way.)
- I worked my way over to Kemmerer, which was somewhat ungroomed but was able to ski it no problem.
- Then, I warmed up in some bumps in the ungroomed sections of Easy Does It.
- Took The Tram up to Rondezvous Bowl, which was absolutely amazing. I was later told by a local it was unusually great conditions.
- Spent time under the Sublette Quad Chair, where I skied Laramie Bowl, then Bivouac, Rendezvous Bowl again, and Snag Tree.
- Finished the day under Apres Vous Quad Chair, where I hit Teewinot Face, Secret Slope and a few others.
- Took the first Tram up, hit Renezvous Bowl and then lapped Bivouac, Laramie Bowl, Thunder, and Snag Tree for a while.
- Eventually worked over to the Teton Quad Chair, where I skied Grizzly Glade.
- Finished the day with Buffalo Bowl, and was feeling confident about the Hobacks!
- Lapped Apres Vous Chair and Teton Quad Chair all morning.
- Took the tram up after lunch, and… had a blast skiing the South/Middle Hobacks!!!
At the top of the entrance, I’ve gotta say, eyeing down this was quite intimidating:
After a random ski school instructor flew by me, I noted how he side stepped the exposed rocks, and then effortlessly skied down the towering moguls.
I did my best to imitate this, which seemed to work well enough for the first 10 difficult turns. And after those tough turns, the whole area opened up to fantastic, soft turns for the next 2,000 feet, straight down.
These were the Hobacks I’d heard so much about!!!
Hopefully you found this report beneficial! After my unbelievable Hobacks experience, I’m convinced everyone should ski The Hobacks once.
If you agree, feel free to share this guide with someone you think should get themselves into the Hobacks!