Wyoming Winter

Stories to show how cold and beautiful winter is in Jackson, Wyoming.

Snowfall in the Grand Tetons is not just a cold time; it is one of the most pristine, quiet, and spiritual moments to enjoy the rugged landscape. The crowds of summer are a mere memory. The mountains stand taller; the lakes are frozen over, storms move in suddenly, and vacate just the same. A Jackson Wyoming winter vacation offers the well-bundled traveler some Rocky Mountain magic. Enjoy the images, and be sure to dive in deeper by reading the full story here.

 

Ground blizzard driving with car in front.

Driving in a blizzard.

We had driven for two days to arrive in Jackson, Wyoming, with a full-on blizzard.  And we were there for only two days working with a local photography guide. What a leap of faith to jump behind the wheel and drive to seemingly nowhere. If you look closely, you can see the faint tire tracks from the SUV in front of us, and if squinting, you can make out a power line across the road.

Low visibility on a road with snow.

What does Wyoming winter look like? 

The brunt of the blizzard passed, but visibility was barely lifting.  We braved the sub-zero temperature to peer down the road. You can barely make out the mountains in the distance. Notice that no one is out. Hmmm. Maybe we shouldn’t have been?

Bison in snow, antique-like photo.

One of the best things to see in Grand Teton National Park.

Our first photo stop once the snow slowed was a field where bison huddled together. Light snowflakes floated down, the wind had died off, and in the quiet, you could hear bison breaths. I wanted to capture the essence of the 1800s when they roamed freely, so I processed this with a touch of antique finish.

Single bison with snow-crusted face.

American Bison up close in the Tetons.

Once the sun appeared, we explored more of the park. Right by the side of the road, a bison had plowed through the snowdrifts for grass. His face is crusted with ice in an iconic look of winter’s struggles. We respected our distance and stayed in the car, using a longer lens to bring us closer. Click here to see where you can travel in the park to see bison and lots of other amazing creatures, safely for both you and them.

Two moose laying in the brush in afternoon sun.

Moose at sunset in Grand Teton National Park.

Towards the end of that day, the sun gave a golden glow. We climbed on top of our workshop leader’s SUV and were able to see these two moose lounging, their backs to each other and the racks gilded in the sun rays.

Snowflakes fall on a trumpeter swan.

Where do trumpeter swans live?

In the 1930s, the only known trumpeter swans in the U.S. were located near Yellowstone, with their population down to 69. With biologists’ intervention, trumpeter swan’s habitat now includes the Tetons, and their numbers are up. They face many challenges, but even though this one has lost part of its wing, it is still an elegant bird.

Snow is piled on pillars.

Black and white snow photography along with some humor.

I felt a little sheepish, asking our photography guide to stop at this spot where the snow had piled on top of sign pillars. But he was curious about what I saw. I call this “S’more Snow.” 

Pine trees covered in snow

Abstract photography in nature.

Have you seen Christmas tree lots from years ago where they flock the trees with fake snow? I promise, this hillside of pines is flocked with the real thing, and if you look closely, the boughs bend with the weight. Some of the bare branches look as though elves placed the snow with the utmost care.

Burned forest of trees in snow.

Fine art black and white photography: “Still Standing.”

When the Tetons are freshly-coated in snow, small scenes pop out. I saw how the snow around this larger tree gave it a boundary from the other smaller trees. The feeling this image evokes for me is how we are different but the same. Sometimes we feel alone even when surrounded by a sea of others. Perhaps you see how standing your ground for what you believe in resonates in this photo. I named this “Still Standing.”

Burned trees on snow-covered hills.

Tree photography abstract.

Some of the best writing advice I’ve been given is to practice describing in your head what something is like. By the way, that’s an excellent way to pass the time on a long road trip. It’s a creative practice that brings you into the moment. When I saw this hillside, I recalled fall days, heading to a college football game, winding our way up the ramps in a sea of fans until we finally got to our section high up in the stadium.

Hillside of burned trees and snow

Abstract fine art black and white photography.

I process many images, but oh, so many more never get touched.  This is one of them. Two years after the fact, I took a look through the files from this trip to Grand Teton National Park, and the abstract nature of this image caught my eye. I worked with it and fell in love. My eyes move with the lines of the hills behind the trees, and then I saw the definite change in the look of the trees at the top of the photo. That forest section remains untouched by a fire, while most of the trees in the image were burned by a lightning strike fire. Like a rainstorm, somewhere the rain stops.  These trees happen to be the boundary where the fire ran out, a reminder that challenges arise, but there is hope in the distance. This was the Berry Fire, and I recommend watching this National Park Service video discussing the value this fire brought to the ecosystem.

Close up in black and white of Mount Moran.

Mt. Moran black and white photo.

One of the most impressive elements of being in the Teton Valley is how abruptly the mountain peaks jut out of the earth and command your attention. The summits force storms to build intensity as they rise to spill up and over into the valley below. The granite monoliths block the horizon and filter the setting sun. While there are brave souls who like to snowboard off the summit, I found it more manageable to explore the ridgelines, the pine stands, and the avalanche shutes with a long lens. Check this video out if you want to get the perspective from high up coming down. Spoiler alert: this footage really got my heart pounding!

Snake river with snow.

The Tetons and the Snake River photo: the color version.

Ok, so it’s not an Ansel Adams photo, but it is the same area. Mine is covered in snow; he had snow on the Tetons but not the surrounding valley. Mine is color; his photo is black and white. Ansel had the river snaking in a beautiful “S” shape through the scene, but my river is frozen over.  I wasn’t trying to copy him; in fact, it’s a pet peeve of mine. But the morning light was hitting this area, and later I would discover a little gem that makes this a special image to me. There happens to be a hole in the ice on the river, and I believe that otters probably use this to hop in and fish, hop out, eat and play. That’s what otters do. And they are my favorite animal. Read the full story on this trip so you can see how synchronicity played into the otter theme. 

Frozen Jackson Lake and Mount Moran in winter at sunset

Grand Teton Jackson Lake photo.

Sunsets are tricky when you have a massive set of rocks blocking the horizon. But sometimes, if you are lucky, the light touch the peaks of the Tetons. This was one of those sunsets. Jackson Lake sets a frozen table in front of the mountains; a line of pines looks like they march back to the hills, and the sun sets the granite on fire. If you want to contrast and compare, look at Jackson Lake during the summer. You can see the pine trees from my image, but the ice has been converted.

Close up of a frozen soap bubble

Frozen bubble photo.

The kind of cold that Jackson Wyoming offers, that negative symbol in front of the rather small number, allows you to do something that you can’t do in even slightly warmer climates (and by that, I still think 35 degrees is cold): frozen soap bubbles. I saw a photo from a photographer in Canada, and I was entranced by design in the bubble: a locomotive train. I researched the recipe, the requirements, and a Wyoming winter vacation meant I, too, could try my hand at this. However, my hands froze up in short order. But I managed, with some help, to get this bubble shot before I couldn’t feel my fingers. A feather design developed right before the imminent collapse. Thank goodness I snapped at just the right time.

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