The storm began Sunday around noon. I was out enjoying an incredible perk of working at Togwotee Mountain Lodge – an employee snowmobile ride. This was our second time to get to ride some sleds on a guided tour and this time we headed to Brooks Lake Lodge near Dubois, WY that is only accessible by snowmobile in the winter.
After a couple of hours riding on and off trail (hitting speeds of 50+mph!), we arrived at the lodge where power had just been restored minutes before. The snow was beginning to fall. We happily entered the warm lodge, a large wooden structure with multiple fire places, couches, big windows, an high ceilings. We were ushered into the dining room where racks near the fireplace could hold our wet gloves and mantels above could hold our helmets. We enjoyed each other’s company at a large table for nine in the middle of the large dining room surrounded by paintings of the Grand Tetons, Brooks Lake, and the nearby surrounding cliffs that were unfortunately buried behind thick clouds full of snow.
After a delightful lunch, the group returned to their sleds. The route back took only about 30 minutes, most of which was in near white our conditions as the snow began to fall harder. Many of us arrived back at Togwotee Lodge and immediately reported to work, tired but happy.
The snow continued to fall all day Monday, delicate snowflakes cascading from a grey sky. Work pressure and stress was building and I was very much looking forward to my next two days off. I made plans to go to “town” (aka Jackson, WY) with a friend, but I quickly realized that the snow would continue to fall, and we weren’t going anywhere.
Tuesday, my first scheduled day off, rolled around and I lazily slept in after a night of celebrating my “Friday” with a couple of friends. I awoke and stared in awe of the snow dumping onto Angle Mountain and the surrounding alpine wilderness. The dogs were howling – they love it when it snows. By this point, we had received at least two feet.
Though it was my day off, I learned quickly that there was mild mayhem at our lodge. The storm had closed the highway stranding tourists that came on day trips for dog sledding or snowmobiling and trapping guests that were planning on checking out. The highway was closed and no one could come in or out. Now, we just watched it snow.
And it wasn’t long until I inevitably got called into work as the guest occupancy had suddenly spiked. The restaurant was slammed, and I couldn’t not help them. I left after the rush and was glad to find a few friends to unwind with. Sean soon finished his bar shift and we turned on our recent guilty pleasure, Shameless. We had nearly finished an episode when the white Christmas lights flickered and the show stopped streaming. I knew instantly – the power was out.
Ok, so, the power going out was definitely not surprising. It happens, particularly in storms, being so far out in the middle of nowhere Wyoming as we are. We awoke Wednesday morning to a somewhat chilly room, only natural light glowing behind the heaps of snow that were still falling from the sky. No heat, no light in the bathroom, no internet. We made ourselves Irish coffees and escaped to the warmth of the lodge where generators provided electricity.
It wasn’t long until we saw our friends, the dogsled guides (mushers) who suddenly had their schedule cleared because their clients were unable to get to Togwotee. The highway was still closed disabling guest departure and arrival. Dylan, a musher, knew we were interested riding and was quick to offer a short ride. We accepted the offer without a second of hesitation and geared up for our sleigh ride.
Dylan had a little work to do before going out, so we took the time to meet and greet as many dogs as possible. Frankly, that was no small feat because the mushers care for over 110 sled dogs.
We spent over an hour petting and loving on as many dogs as possible before the mushers picked out the 12 “chosen ones” for our ride. Let’s be clear – these dogs live, love, and breathe this sport. They are passionate about pulling a sled and not so thrilled when they aren’t picked. The mushers told me almost all dogs typically do one 10 mile sled pull per day and many do two. I swear, these are some of the happiest dogs in the world.
Eventually, all twelve dogs were strapped in, and we were off! The snow continued to fall, as it had been for the past four days, and the dogs ran into the snow covered forest clearly familiar with the trail. Though the clouds hid the surrounding mountains, the snow falling in the silent forest created a serene environment. Never in my life had I pictured myself being towed by dogs dashing through pine trees boughs heavy with weight of the snow. Over three feet had fallen since Sunday, and the dogs were working hard navigating through the fresh powder.
Our five mile ride was over before we knew it, but we couldn’t be more grateful for the incredible experience that randomly fell in our laps. After our ride, it was time for beers in the bar, dinner, and, to top it all off, a game of Settlers of Catan. By now it was nearly 9:00 and the power and heat in the dorms were still off. A few of the employees decided to gather around for more drinks in an employee cabin.
We were all accepting the inevitability of a dark, cold evening when suddenly, the lights flashed and to our surprise, stayed on! Power was restored!! It wasn’t long before our group of friends scattered in different directions. It was then that we realized the snow had stopped and the sky was clearing. The light of the near full moon shone like a mirror onto the blanket of snow that covered the lodge. Four days and four feet later, this winter storm was over.