Analysing terrain data
The exposure grade does not take into account objective hazards (stone fall, seracs, etc) but only the consequences of the skier falling.
Low Exposure (E1): Exposure is limited to that of the slope itself. Getting hurt is still likely if the slope is steep and/or the snow is hard.
Medium Exposure (E2): As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.
High Exposure (E3): In case of a fall, death is highly likely.
Extreme Exposure (E4): In case of a fall, the skier faces certain death.
The “Big Holes” mountain range (the northern portion of the Snake River Range) is located across the valley from Grand Targhee Resort and is a well-known snowmobile destination.
The groomed snowmobile trails there are a great option for fat bikers looking for a big day on snow. Parking is at the “Kay Dairy” trailhead, launching riders immediately from the trailhead into a 14% grade climb.
Mercifully, the climb is short and levels off for a brief recovery before resuming at a kinder grade.
If you want to assess your mental toughness, a start like that effectively measures a rider’s resolve! If the snow conditions are firm and undisturbed by any recent snowmobile activity, the trail gains elevation quite enjoyably.
The 17-mile Big Holes Loop route ascends steeply, never more than a mile at a time before providing a level-ish recovery stretch.
In that manner, the 2,000-foot, 9-mile climb never feels overly grueling.
Firm snow conditions allow a rider to fully enjoy the varying environments along the way and will be much appreciated during the steep climbs.
It is worth noting that several climbs would be hike-a-bike in soft conditions.
The physical effort to gain the high point is the admission price to a view of the Tetons! Be sure to enjoy a well-deserved snack while soaking in the view before adding a layer and beginning the descent. The descent is shorter and steeper than the climb, but comes in short stages as a series of “stair-steps.” That makes the descent more fun, and less tiring, than miles of steady elevation loss.
If there has been intense sunshine, the softened snow will make a few steep corners a bit “spicy.” While riding through the canyon, keep an eye out for moose; they are not uncommon in this area.
In closing the loop, enjoy a bit of mellow cruising before the final 14% drop back to the trailhead.
This is a truly fantastic ride in a stunningly-beautiful location!