Skiing in Jackson's Hole, Wyoming USA

Wyoming in the USA is home to many natural wonders, including Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Devil’s Tower – you’ll remember that from Close Encounters of the Third Kind – and the spectacularly beautiful Jackson Hole Mountain Resort – home to some of the best skiing and snowboarding you are ever likely to see. Add to that the charming western town of Jackson, with its cowboy bars, stetson shops and wooden sidewalks, and you have one heck of a holiday coming up.

Looking over the National Elk Refuge to the TetonsJackson Hole is pretty much the Holy Grail of snow resorts, with skiers and boarders coming from all over the world to tackle its steep slopes. And with 1011 hectares of terrain, two mountains – Après Vous and Rendezvous, a summit of 3185 meters, 13 lifts and 116 named trails, there is plenty to keep everyone happy.
As for where to base yourself, stay in the town of Jackson – 20 minutes away – or in Teton Village, which is at the base of the resort. No matter where you stay, giddy up for one hell of a ride.

Jackson Hole is one of the world's great ski resorts

Check in – we bunked at a condo through Jackson Hole Resort Lodging. They have a swag of condos, slopeside town homes and private home rentals available. With two teenage boys, we figured we needed a bit more space and our condo delivered, with a large lounge room, fireplace, kitchen, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The western theme is front and centre, and suits the absolutely spectacular landscape. Next time, if there were only two of us, we’d opt for the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, which is located slopeside, making it easy to ski or board to the door. The interiors are uber chic, the service superb, the rooms and suites impeccable and the facilities fabulous. More on that later!

 

Gear up – we picked all our gear up from JH Sports which is a few steps from the Bridger Gondola, Teewinot chairlift and Eagles Rest chairlift. It was pretty painless and we opted for the demo skis which cost a bit more but are worth it.

 

The mountains are wow. Just WOW. The resort is located inside the Grand Teton National Park, which has to be one of the more spectacular parks in the world. The mountain scenery will have your jaw dropping to the snow. The sun sets pink, orange and purple over the peaks, and when the moon is out, the snow peaks of Jackson Hole glow in the lunar light, with a swarm of stars sparkling above the shadowy bulk. It’s easy to spot the groomers hard at work as well, headlights blazing way up from the valley floor.


Rendezvous Mountain is the highest of the two, reaching up to 3185 meters. It’s for the more experienced skiers and boarders with mostly blacks and double blacks for those who really like to push it. The Bridger Gondola drops you off at 2772 meters, with blacks and blues to double blues that either take you to the base, or that link up with a bunch of other chairlifts. Apres Vous is the one that less experienced intermediates should head for, and where you should do a few warm up runs before you hit the steeper, more hair raising runs of Rendezvous.
If you are a beginner, or if you have kids who are beginners, the learning areas here are fantastic. Kids have an absolute ball in ski or snow board school, with igloos to visit, fun little wagons to be driven around in, playgrounds to explore and teaching methods that will encourage them to progress, while having fun and meeting new friends. The Eagles Nest chair accesses perfect beginner terrain while the Teewinot chairlift has several green runs off it, as well as fun little tree runs and a small terrain park for when the kids get a bit more adventurous. The Teewinot chair also allows you to access the Apres Vous chairlift, which has some fantastic blues off it as well as the all black Saratoga Bowl.

Jackson Hole is awesome for kids
Another brilliant intermediate area is the terrain around the Casper chairlift. Access it from the Gondola and enjoy myriad runs that will keep you going for some time. Casper also has a good restaurant that has some fascinating history on the walls about the local Native American Indians that used to live around the area.
Once you have well and truly got your ski and board legs on, head up the Tram, which carries a hundred people at a time up, up and up to the top of Rendezvous. The view from up the top is eye popping, as is the cold wind!

View from the top of the Tram

Pop inside Corbet’s Cabin for a hot chocolate before you let loose and drop down into the Rendezvous Bowl. When you are going up in the tram, watch out the left hand side as you near the top and watch as some thrill seekers tackle the fearsome Corbet’s Couloir, a run where you actually fall for quite a distance before you hit snow. Only the best of the best even contemplate making that drop.

Must do: Go up the tram – even if you can’t ski, just to see the view from the top and have a drink in Corbet’s Cabin. Better still, you will probably be the only one in the tram going back down and the views are incredible.

Corbet's Cabin at the top of the the tramDine at: The Couloir Restaurant at the top of Bridger Gondola. Talk about a room with a view and as the food … divine!

Best moment: Every time I got off the Casper chair I had to take a photo of the soaring peaks coated with glorious snow. So ridiculously pretty!

Apres ski – At the end of a day spent skiing and snowboarding on runs as good as this, half the fun is the relaxing afterwards over a drink or two. We holed up at the Handle Bar at the Four Seasons a few times, as it is right by the lifts and you can straight to it. The firepits and gas heaters make it cosy to sit outside and it is really enjoyable to sit and chat over a beer or wine while taking in the view over the mountains. The Mangy Moose is another must, and don’t be surprised if you go for a drink and end up staying for dinner. The Saloon has it all going on in the fun stakes and the restaurant has so much western paraphernalia around the walls that you’ll need to stay a while to take it all in.

Four Seasons

Dining out – Don’t anticipate going on a diet while you are in Jackson Hole because there are too many fine restaurants in which to indulge. Il Villagio Osteria, at the Hotel Terra, served up a veritable banquet of dishes from regional Italy and as for the desserts … I am still working it all off. The Westbank Grill at the Four Seasons was beautiful; the interiors of timber and stone so elegant and the service first class. The menu offers prime steaks cooked on a 1800° infrared grill, as well as an array of signature side dishes. It was such a beautiful, romantic evening – it felt like an anniversary. For something a bit more casual, the Mangy Moose is a must when in Jackson Hole, and Spur Restaurant at Teton Mountain Lodge is also a good one for a laid back dinner.

Spa – after a few days skiing or boarding a massage is a must and we can recommend two fabulous spas. The Spa at the Four Seasons has 16 treatment rooms, separate relaxation rooms for men and women and a soothing ambience. My masseuse, Kolin, rejuvenated my sore muscles with an Aroma Quench Body Elixor, 80 minutes of bliss that began with full-body brushing from head to toe, and then I was wrapped in steamed herbal sheets that rehydrated my skin. The massage that followed was probably the best I have had at a ski resort. I treated myself to another massage, at Chill Spa at Hotel Terra. Allow time to sit in the outdoor hot tub before or after your massage – the view over the mountains is truly something. This time I opted for a soothing, aromatherapy massage, and I can’t remember much as I fell asleep!

Other activities – One thing this part of the world is known for is wildlife, so we just had to go on a half-day wildlife tour with Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris. We were picked up at the door of our condo by our jovial host Kyle, and, after a fabulous breakfast bagel and coffee at Pearl Street Bagels we headed out for a wonderful few hours driving through incredible scenery and learning a thing or two along the way. We saw elk in the National Elk Refuge, some muskrats, a herd of bison, plenty of moose – some even crossing the road in front of us – bighorn sheep, mule deer and some bald eagles. Throw in some locations used in Django Unchained and the western movie Shane, some history about the French fur trappers who named most of the landscape and some good advice on what else to do around town, and we had a very successful morning.
There are plenty of other things to do as well, including tubing, dog sledding, snow shoeing and snowmobile tours and snowcoach tours – with some going into Yellowstone National Park. The best way to see the National Elk Refuge is on a sleigh ride, as you can actually go into the refuge and get up close to the elk.

The town of Jackson – Definitely spend some time in here as you feel like you are a western movie. Clump down the wooden sidewalks, browse in the western shops, pick yourself up a stetson at Jackson Hole Hat company, and grab a selfie under the antler archway in the town square. Stay at the Wort Hotel (pronounced Wirt), an historic hotel that has just been awarded four stars by Forbes – no mean feat! The Wort has been part of the fabric of Jackson since it opened in 1941 with its Silver Dollar Bar a highlight. There are 2,032 silver dollars in the bar – try counting them after a few cocktails! The Suites at the Wort are a beautiful mix of western tradition and luxury furnishings, with a bear lying in wait on the bed for you. Even the doors to the suites are incredible – each is different. We are in the Cowboy Suite with a carving of a cowboy on a horse virtually leaping out from the door. It’s worth checking out all the doors on the other suites as well.

Wort Winter Snow

Must do: Visit the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar as well for a selfie sitting in the saddle at the bar. All the stools are actually saddles and it is very cool.

 

Dine at: The Silver Dollar Grill is the sort of place where you will lose time. Great food, wonderful atmosphere and a lovely mix of locals and visitors ensure an unforgettable night.

Silver Dollar Bar Scene

Best moment: Every afternoon in winter there are freshly baked cookies and hot chocolate delivered to the lounge. Best tasting cookies in the west!

Tips: Go easy on the first day and drink plenty of water to help your body get used to the high altitude.

Getting there: Jackson Hole is 20 minutes’ drive from Jackson and 40 minutes from Jackson Airport which has with non-stop service from 12 cities. Fly direct from Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: www.jacksonhole.com
Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris: www.jacksonholewildlifesafaris.com
The Wort Hotel: www.worthotel.com


About the Author
Helen Hayes

My love for travel was ignited as soon as I stepped on a plane to England, jetting into the great unknown as a 20-something backpacker with no travel smarts, no illusions and not much money. Every experience, in every country fuelled me with a desire to see more. Do more. Experience more. I started writing about travel in London, and then continued in that travel vein back home in Australia, researching on the Great Outdoors television show, editing travel magazines such as Vacations and Travel Magazine, Escape Magazine and Holidays with Kids magazine. Having developed a love of all things snow, a lot of what I write these days combines my love for travel with my desire to ski the slopes of the world with my family. And let me assure you, there are many great places that offer pure luxe experiences topped off with snow. Although these days I don’t own a backpack and don’t know where the nearest youth hostel is, the buzz from seeing new places or revisiting old favourites, is just as strong and just as enjoyable as it ever was. From iconic five-star hotels to tracking cheetahs on an African safari, from the brilliant blue and white of a Greek island to a dusty, dirty antique market in China, from strolling Parisian streets to cycling scenic bike tracks in New Zealand, or from skiing powder-topped slopes in Colorado to island hopping on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, the world really is a remarkable place… and there is so much more to see. I live in Sydney with my husband and two sons, aged 18 and 15.