There’s a special way to get back up Teton Pass: Hitchhiking. Here are stories of a few of the “lifties.”
BY SCOTT DAVIDSON
Highway 22 winds cliffs and up Teton Pass, separating Victor, Idaho from Wilson, Wyoming. Thousands of travelers drive the road each day commuting to Jackson or hitting the resorts in winter. But what draws me to that same stretch of highway is the skiable terrain; more than 36,000 acres of it.
The top of Teton pass is just over 8,000 feet and allows parking for up to 60 vehicles in winter making it difficult to park on a powder day. I find it best to park my truck each morning at the famous Stagecoach Bar on the Wilson/Jackson side, stick out my thumb and hitchhike to the top.
It never takes long for someone to pick me up and share the 10-minute ride to the top. These locals are some of the most helping, compassionate people I’ve ever met. They love to chat and live vicariously through my ski lines. Over the years I’ve shared countless beautiful moments with some of the most unique people on the planet. I love asking people why they picked me up and what they’re doing that day, and their amazing stories inspired me to create The Teton Pass Project.
The first, in November 2017, came from a gentleman who scooped me up on his way to grab his wife’s baby bag in Driggs; she had just gone into labor. When I asked him why he picked me up, he said, “I wanted to tell someone that I’m going to be a dad.” It was moving. The fact that this man took time out of this special day to help me out shows what kind of community we have here in Jackson. I wanted to share it with others.
After I’m picked up and nearing the top of the pass, I ask the driver if I can take their photograph, and I explain the project. Not one person has said no. I pull out a Polaroid camera and snap two photographs, one for me and one for them. I find that the Polaroid creates a natural and more comfortable setting compared to a large DSLR camera. The images become romanticized highlighted by faded colors and imperfections. There’s something about watching a Polaroid develop that brings a smile to their faces. It’s like unwrapping a gift: you never know what you’re going to get.
I ski Teton Pass nearly every day in winter, hitchhiking to the top every time. It’s not something everyone feels comfortable doing, but in this community and unique scenario it’s one of the reasons I love skiing the Pass. The folks that pick me up add a little something extra to that powder day.
I have ever seen. You never want to run into Nick when
he’s at work. Why? He’s a repo man and doesn’t take
crap from anyone. Nick told me about the time a man
pulled a shotgun on him while he was repossessing
the guy’s car. He took the gun right out of the guy’s
arms then took the car. Nick is tough as nails but has
a huge heart.
wanted a ride. She told me she keeps a logbook of
hitchhiking the pass in the summer and claims
she’sgiven over a hundred rides. After I took her
photograph, I guess I wasn’t super clear with where
to sign the Polaroid.
on the side of his vehicle. I looked into the car and saw
a woman sitting in the back seat. Christian, the driver
gestured to me to jump in the front and away we went.
The woman was his fare and he had driven her to test
drive a car in Driggs. The car turned out to be a junker
and now he was giving her a ride back to Jackson. On
their way back Christian picked me up free of charge.
He claims it was his good deed for the day.
vacation from Scotland 15 years ago. When he ran
out of money he landed a job here in the Tetons.
The rest is history. He was very proud of his baby
and asked if I would take a photograph with her, too.
moved to Jackson two weeks earlier from Boulder,
Colorado, and was driving to Rexburg, Idaho, to cash
a check because he didn’t have a local Jackson bank
account yet. He still needed a job and a place to live,
a common problem for many people around these
Doo and the gang were going to jump out and
solve a mystery. Instead the five folks in the van
just wanted to shred powder on the pass. Mark
imports vintage vans from Japan and resells them
here in the U.S. This awesome little rig is a diesel
1992 Mitsubishi Delica. Zoinks!
Scott Davidson cott Davidson grew up in Bozeman, Montana’s Valley of Flowers and graduated with a B.F.A. in film and photography from Montana State University. He currently lives in the Tetons and is planning his next ski trip around the world.