Albright Takes on the Grand
The first week of March, I spent 10 days in Joseph, Oregon, a
town you’re probably never heard of located in northern Oregon. Nestled at the base of the compellingly beautiful Wallowa mountain range, this quirky town consisted of very equal parts rancher, redneck, ski bum, and hippy.
I was accompanied by four other guys; two filmers, one photographer, and one other skier. The objective of the trip was to explore places you don’t regularly see in ski media, but that provide amazing terrain nonetheless. Joseph and the Wallowas fit the bill perfectly- it’s the best kept secret right behind the formula for Coca Cola.I was invited on the trip thanks to another young Jackson Hole native Sam Schwartz, even though he knew it was going to be both my first film trip and touring intensive trip. We drove to Oregon together from Bozeman, Montana, leaving around 2am and arriving 9 hours later. We immediately trekked out to a ski hut located in the Wallowa backcountry, enjoying toasty wood fires, snow melt for water, and a whole lot of excitement for the days to come.We were blessed with a super stable snowpack for the entirety of our trip, which allowed for a lot more exploration than I had expected- we headed out the first morning at a nice 4:30 am and returned around 4 pm, accompanied by a local guide who showed us to some of the nicest snow I had ever skied in my life. I can confirm- skiing sunrise lit pow very few had skied before is a pretty nice feeling, and it didn’t stop that first long day. The next day involved even better snow and even cooler zones than the first, and those 10+ hour long tours in the Wallowas instilled in me a whole new love for skiing- it was a side of it that I had never experienced before.I had grown up in ski programs where there was no time for much backcountry exploration, and finding out what I had been missing was both frustrating and enlightening. In addition, being so far into the backcountry taught me a whole new lesson on safety and smart decision-making. The areas we were skiing were not heli accessible, and if anything were to go wrong a self-evacuation would have been necessary. I was forced to adopt a much different mindset than my mindset for competition (where ski patrol is readily available), and ski much more conservatively than usual.The next five nights were spent in town, in the house of a friend of a friend (oh, the beauty of connections). We got to ski at their local resort Fergi, which was made up of a single T-Bar, volunteer workers, and families. I loved it! The complete lack of ego was incredibly refreshing; people were just there to ski, not get “sicker” or “gnarlier” than the person next to them. One of the best parts of exploring this new place was meeting all of the people and hearing their stories. Although most of the friends we made were all extremely different (artists, skiers, bow hunters, stoners), they all had three things in common: an obvious respect for the nature surrounding them, a love for their small hometown, and a dedication to keeping both genuine. Coming from Jackson Hole, where development is the basis of all things, I am extremely hopeful that this small Oregon town will be able to keep from losing it’s secret local charm.Oregon taught me many things that I will be carrying with me for the rest of my life, and learning to film was only a small part of it, even though it was the biggest learning curve of the week. Looking forward to what the rest of the winter has to hold!Stay grateful!