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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sending it huge at Targhee in 59" of New Snow

 Epic week at Targhee

Skier: Owen Leeper Photo By: Jana Rogers

I got a call from Greg, a photographer based out of Jackson saying Julian Carr was headed to Targhee and asked if I wanted to join. I've never skied Targhee while the lifts were running, only early season before they opened. In five winters in Jackson I never got to explore the famous cliff hucking zone of the Targhee backcountry. I had the next 5 days off work so I was in for sure!

Julian Carr

The first day was overcast with 10” of new snow, Greg and I met Julian up on the hill. He was already stomping out the takeoff on the infamous "diving board" that had been featured in many early ski films when we arrived. I stood on top of the cliff and it looked like a long way to the landing. I helped Julian stomp out the perfect takeoff, wondering to myself whether I would hit it or not.

I watched Julian set up to send this 60-foot cliff into the flat light and mostly invisible landing. We threw tree branches off the cliff for some depth perception. Julian sent the air, a massive front flip and stuck deep into the landing. He climbed out of his bomb hole and said it was good to go. I lined up and hit it just next to where he landed, I too front flipped and landed safely in deep snow, I climbed out ready for more.

We hit a couple more smaller airs that day, mainly just scoping out the lines we wanted to ski the next day. The following morning the resort reported 9" of new snow. As we made the drive from Jackson, it was apparent that there was at least 9" in the parking lot and it was going to be much deeper up high. We rode up the lift and made our first run down in at least 25" of new snow! The gate to Mary's Nipple was not open the day before, so after skiing a few insanely deep runs inbounds, Julian, his girlfriend Jana, Greg and I made our way up. We traversed to the gate, coming up on a patroller trenching through waist deep snow. We offered to punch in the trail if she let us through the gate before she closed it for the day.  It took us probably 35 minutes to make it up the normally 10-minute hike. At the top, I was standing in snow up to my waist and we could barely move. We traversed to steeper terrain and I grabbed my gopro stick to film. The snow instantly covered my head as I skied, it was the deepest turns of my life about and I had to stop halfway down to see where I was going. Julian and Greg skied down barely visible under the snow. It was literally 50" of blower powder, the deepest snow I've ever skied. After our amazing day we grabbed a few drinks at the base and headed home.

Skier: Owen Leeper Photo By: Jana Rogers

Thinking it wouldn't be as good the next day for snow and weather, we took a day off from shooting, so I skied at Jackson Hole. The wind had affected all the snow and was not nearly as good. I checked the weather for the next couple days and saw it was going to be sunny. I talked to Julian and he said we should try again at Targhee. The fog was rolling in and out of the cliff zone which made it hard to get the shots we wanted in good light. 

We got a couple clear moments and sent the diving board again, but his time with more speed. I brought my laser rangefinder to check the height. I measured the distance from the landing to the cliff and the angles with my inclinometer, using trigonometry to calculate the height of the cliff to our landing at roughly 90 vertical feet! As a secondary measurement I took a screen grab of my video taken from the side and used my body as the scale. It too showed it was about 15 times my height and about 90 feet.

We scoped a couple more airs and waited for light as the clouds kept blocking our shots, we hit a couple more but knew we had to come back the next day for more.

The next day was perfectly clear. We started on the upper cliffs with early morning light and shot some photos there. One thing Julian and I had talked about for a couple years was a simultaneous air. Julian found a great spot to do it and we got Greg in position for the shot under the cliff as we both aired together off a 40-foot cliff over him.

Stoked on getting the simul air, we decided to go hit the diving board again with blue skies and try a few different angles. Julian hit it first again and said it was still soft so I sent it too. 

We had been eying this air we called "corner pocket" because it was tucked away at the end of the bowl with a perfect triangular rock with a good takeoff. We headed that way for our last air of the day with afternoon sun on it. Julian offered it to me to hit first, but I said it was his idea and he could have it first. He dropped in and sent a massive 70-foot front flip, taking most the snow with him off the take off and setting a small slide in the landing that I though took out my landing. He radioed up saying to aim far right and I’ll hit fresh snow. So, I too sent the big front flip off the cliff. I landed in soft snow, but right after I hit, I started falling upside down, further into the hill, not knowing what was happening I threw both my arms out, stopping my fall. My skis were still on the surface and I was able to climb out of my bomb hole. I looked down at what had happened and I had landed right over a deep cave next to the rock that went down at least another 15 feet. I don't know if I would have been able to get out of that one, feeling very lucky to have missed falling upside down into it. Julian and I high fived on an epic week with huge airs and everyone skiing away safely. We met up with Greg and Jana for some celebratory beers at the base. It was the best week of the year and will hard to beat!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Back from Surgery to Skiing!


A crash from last February left me with a tear in my labrum in my right shoulder. I was able to finish out the season, skiing well into August but I new I would have to get surgery before the winter. I scheduled surgery for September 25th which put my estimated two month recovery at opening day at Jackson Hole. During surgery the doctor found my rotator cuff was also torn, so the recovery time doubled from two months to four.

I was still able to hike, but was unable to do anything with my right shoulder. I was in a sling for 6 weeks, but still got outside hiking all around Jackson.

Skier: Owen Leeper Photo: Sasha Motivala

Early Christmas Present

My doctor originally told me that skiing by Christmas was going to be a push and would still depend on my physical therapy and range of motion. Luckily for me, everything went well during PT and he cleared me to ski almost two weeks early! It was a good thing, I got two days of groomers to warm up the legs before the snow started falling. It took some time to get my legs back but the snow was great up high, but still grassy down low. 

A Week of Powder Days

Skier: Owen Leeper Photo: Tim Swartz

Starting on December 17th we got to ski powder everyday. We made it up Cody peak a couple times and got fresh tracks on Pucker and No Name face. Christmas eve it snowed again and we woke up to 9 inches of more snow. By December 26th the storm had dropped 37 inches! 

The snow is skiing great and it feels amazing to be back. I still have to take it easy though, 4 months is about the minimum time for the shoulder to be able to take a bad fall. So until then, I will have to keep my feet on the ground. I think I can handle just skiing powder for a few more weeks!

Skier: Owen Leeper Photo: Sasha Motivala

Friday, December 1, 2017

Tons of Powder, Corbet's Couloir Backflip and Straightlines! Season Edit is Live from Jackson Hole.

2016/2017: The 600 Inch Year At Jackson Hole!

Last season was one for the books, the snow was late in November and Jackson had to delay their opening. Once the snow did start to fall though, it didn't stop! We ended the season with the deepest recorded snowpack on closing day in Jackson History with over 600 inches of snow for the season.

I was going through all my footage and three quarters of it was powder days. Powder days are great for skiing, but not so much for filming. We skied a lot of deep snow, but in grey conditions. There were a couple of lucky days with fresh snow and blue skies. One of those days was shooting with Jackson Hole for the Real Mountain X-Games. My first hit of the day was airing into Corbet's Couloir, so naturally I tossed a backflip. Afterwards we headed to Alta 0 which had been closed to the public so the snow was piled up right under the Sublette chair. I took one of my favorite lines right through a cliff band with an nice banked left turn to cliff air right under the chair. Definitely one of the best days of the season.

Another epic day last season was when i got to tag along with Warren Miller while they were shooting video from the ground and with a drone. All my bluebird cliff shots and drone clips were from that day. We had the chance to get on the early tram and head up Cody peak before everyone else. I was first down Central couloir and then we headed over to No Name bowl where we sessioned the big open face and cliffs. 

After Jackson Hole Mountain Resort closed, I headed to California for late springs conditions. I spent almost two weeks ticking off big mountain couloirs around Mammoth. Check out my writeup in Freeskier about the trip. I later returned to California to ski Squaw before they closed for the summer and travelled up through Oregon and Washington skiing's a couple volcanoes with my sister Janelle Smiley.

After returning to Jackson, I ticked off a few more lines in the Tetons, skiing my last day in Wyoming on August 2nd. Unfortunately a crash from February left me with shoulder pain 5 months later, and after getting an MRI I found out I needed surgery. I scheduled it for September 25th so after my two month recovery I would be ready for opening day at Jackson. During surgery they found my rotator cuff was also torn which almost doubled the recovery time. I hope to be back skiing before Christmas, but taking it easy for the first month. 

Check out my edit "Point 'Em Straight" from the season at Jackson Hole! Also don't forget to follow me on instagram for more great photos and videos this year @o_leeps.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Canada! Skiing Pillows and Powder at Revelstoke and Kicking Horse.

The best trip of the year (so far)

Last week Sasha Motivala and I drove up to Canada from Jackson, with goals to ski Kicking Horse, Revelstoke and a little backcountry with sleds. It was amazing. We got good snow the day we drove in and refills all week.

Our first day was in Kicking Horse with 37cm overnight. The marketing manager met us for a couple laps and showed us around.

The many pillow lines. PC: Sasha Motivala

There are so many pillows and airs right in bounds without having to hike!

Not always a steep landing PC: Sasha Motivala

Tons of steep chutes and airs

Owen Leeper airing at Kicking Horse PC: Sasha Motivala

One of my favorite zones at Kicking horse of pillows stacked everywhere. Unfortunately only had a couple chances to ski them before we headed to Revelstoke the next day.


We found great snow and tons of things to jump off at Revelstoke too! The North bowl offers some really fun big mountain lines and mini golf airs down in the trees.

Skier: Owen Leeper PC: Sasha Motivala

Plenty of steeps at Revelstoke, Skier: Owen Leeper PC:Sasha Motivala

Here's a short video from our last day at Revelstoke!

We took our sleds out to look for some more pillows and powder. It did not disappoint! Video from our trip coming soon!

Owen Leeper jumping pillows! PC: Sasha Motivala

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Winter begins in Jackson Hole!

Owen Leeper +Jackson Hole Mountain Resort PC: Eric Seymour

After a huge week of snow in early October, it dried up in Jackson. The resort was forced to delay opening for a week and finally opened with a few grassy runs last thursday. Then the weather changed and the big dump we needed dropped 59 inches over the course of 9 days!

Teton Pass PC: Janelle Smiley

Owen on Teton Pass PC: Sasha Motivala

I went skinning up the pass for my sister Janelle Smiley's birthday 
and her husband Mark. We did 3 laps the snow was so good.

Owen Leeper in deep. PC: Janelle Smiley

Both the resort and Teton pass got tons of light powder and 
made for an amazing couple of days at the resort and 
the backcountry. Can't wait for the next one!

A photo posted by Owen Leeper (@o_leeps) on

If you haven't seen my edit from last season +Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Check it out below!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bikini Skiing in July in the Tetons

July 14th Skiing in the Tetons

Meredith and I headed into the tetons after some fresh snow up high on July 14th. We found 2,500 vert of fun skiing on the Middle Teton Glacier. Always worth it, always go! #notoverit

Follow us on instagram at @o_leeps and @merejune

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Spring Skiing in the Tetons - Grand Teton, Mt. Owen, Middle South and more

95,000 vert of skiing in the Tetons!

Check out my video from skiing this spring after Jackson Hole closed the lifts. I skied the Grand Teton, Middle, South, Buck, Teewinot, Mt. Owen and more!