The Best of Jackson Hole — On and Off the Mountain

February 4, 2015 by

Action, Adventure & Adrenaline, North America, Places to Go, Things to Do

Consistently named one of the best ski resorts in the country, Jackson Hole Resort in Jackson, Wyoming, is recognized not only for the annual snowfall (500 inches plus) and the extreme terrain on the mountain, but also for the intensity of its après ski scene. For all of the attractions on the mountain, though, there are plenty of attractions for those who want to skip the slopes and explore all that Jackson has to offer.

On the mountain

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Get out on the slopes.

For most winter visitors to Jackson, Jackson Hole Resort is Nirvana. With 2,500 acres of in-bounds terrain and a vertical drop of 4,139 feet (1262 meters), there is plenty of terrain to explore for skiers of all abilities. While the resort is certainly known for its extreme terarain, like Corbett’s Couloir, there’s no reason to think that your entire day will be spent in terror, gazing down at the nearly vertical drop of the couloir. Half of Jackson Hole’s terrain is actually beginner and intermediate, so there’s plenty of snow for everyone, no matter your ability level.

Where to go

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Beautiful view from the Tram.

Jackson Hole is famous for its tram. The first Jackson Hole Aerial Tram started running in 1966 and was retired in 2008 with a massive party. The updated version is cushy, without any of the worry that it might fail at any moment. If you’re one of the first people on the hill, take the Aerial Tram (nicknamed Big Red) to the summit. Once you disembark, you have two choices: Upper to Lower Hobacks is a fantastic, lengthy run that is a must-do on the hill; if you’re looking for steep, work Rendezvous Bowl down to the Sublet quad, which will might afford fresh tracks on Bivouac.

If you had a leisurely morning and the line to the Tram is long, another option is the Gondola. Once at the top, Thunder Quad will afford a chance to ski fresh powder: exit the lift and go straight into Laramie Bowl which, when it’s full of snow or is freshly groomed, is an excellent run. Otherwise, its nickname is ‘Scare-ame Bowl’ because of icy bumps and tons of people traversing the bowl.

At the bottom of the bowl, you can hop on the Sublet chair and navigate through the trees to the top of the Expert Chutes. Don’t let the name throw you off — there are many options to the bottom. Once down, you can navigate the small flat area to gain access to the scatologically named Toilet Bowl.

If Thunder Quad sounds too Thor-like, instead of heading to skier’s right, head left towards the new Casper high-speed quad. It’s quick, easy and gives access to many different types of terrain options from rolling blues to more technical moguls and trees in Moran woods. Be sure to stop into Corbet’s Cabin for a hot waffle with butter and brown sugar. When it starts getting tracked out, traverse right into ‘the Crags’ or have lunch at the Casper lodge.

Another option for exploring is to take the Teewinot lift to the Après Vous lift–head to skier’s far left and explore the wilds of Saratoga Bowl. Conceivably, you could explore back here for a full day, hitting powder stashes, dropping boulders and pinballing through the pines. After playing in Saratoga, cruise down a groomer back to the base.

Après ski is a compulsory part of any ski day — it’s the best way to relive the highlights and lowlights of a day on the mountain. The Mangy Moose is perhaps the most famous après stop in Jackson Hole and its compulsory to at least have one beverage there before heading into town. Or, grab a tram taco and a beer at Nick Wilson’s at the clock tower next to the Tram Dock. If you see a crowd forming, there’s a good chance that there’s a band.

Bonus Intel

While Jackson Hole is certainly the best-known resort in the area, it’s not your only option for pursuing powder. Snow King, a locals’ favorite and Jackson’s original ski resort (it was founded in 1939), offers 400 acres of terrain accessed by three lifts and has the steepest north facing FIS race course in the continental US. While it’s smaller than Jackson Hole, it has a laid-back vibe and is often less crowded than its neighbor. Just over Teton Pass (about a 45-minute drive), is Grand Targhee Resort. This family-owned resort, which was once a closely guarded secret, is quickly becoming a popular destination for snow lovers. With more than 500 inches of snow each year, plenty of terrain (with fewer guests) and a cat skiing operation for even more untracked runs, the ‘Ghee is worth the journey.

Off the Mountain

Make a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Make a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

While skiing and snowboarding is certainly one of the main reasons to visit Jackson in the winter, it’s certainly not the only game in town. Jackson is about 90 miles north of the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park and, while the summer is certainly the most popular time to visit, the winter has its own beauty and charm.

While downhill skiing is one of the most popular activities, there are other opportunities to enjoy the snow. There are almost 30 miles (46 kilometers) of snowshoeing and cross-country trails in the area to explore. At the Stilson Transit Center Nordic, ambassadors give tips and tricks for cross-country and skating technique from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. Nearby Teton National Park is another great location to explore by snowshoe.

Snowmobiling is another popular way to cover a lot of ground while having fun in the process. The acreage available to explore extends into Yellowstone National Park, Teton National Park and the Continental Divide — just to name a few. Snowmobiling is suitable for all ability levels, allowing access to groomed trails to deep snow and backcountry adventure. It’s a high-octane way to cover a lot of ground.  

Winter is a great time to go wildlife watching without the crowds — the animals don’t fly south for the winter, so you’ll still get the opportunity to see bison, moose and even wolves in the winter months. Winter is the best time to visit the National Elk Refuge, which consists of approximately 25,000 dedicated acres where the elk can range during the cold months. Visiting the refuge, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the herd through interactive displays and educational programs. For an up-close view of the herd, sign up for a winter sleigh ride or take advantage of one of the several wildlife viewing areas on the refuge.

Bonus Intel

Just because you didn’t ski doesn’t mean that you can’t après. In town, the Rose is an excellent spot for a delicious, high-end cocktail if you’re looking for a more upscale experience. Snake River Brewing Company has a wide variety of craft beers for the gourmand in your group and the historic Wort Hotel’s Silver Dollar Bar is a popular spot for live music (just don’t try to collect the silver dollars — they’re not going anywhere). If you are still feeling frisky, saddle up for a few at the Cowboy Bar.

— Contributed by Katie Coakley

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