Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has a reputation. It’s got Steep and Deep Camps. It’s home to Corbet’s Couloir. There are 55-degree runs. In-bounds. This extreme-ness will always be the heart and soul of Jackson, but over the last decade it’s cultivated a wider personality.
The first slopeside Four Seasons in the world opened there in 2003. Five years later, Hotel Terra, the first silver LEED-certified luxury boutique hotel in the world opened a few steps from the tram. This winter, Wool & Whiskey opened selling men’s clothing—classic Pendleton jackets to local Mountain Khakis and denim brands including Levi’s Made and Crafted, Raleigh Denim and John Varvatos—and tastes of ryes, bourbons and Scotches.
And then there’s Grand Teton National Park, which is JHMR’s neighbor to the north, and Yellowstone National Park just over an hour’s drive away. Nearly 10,000 elk migrate down into the valley every winter. The country’s largest herd of free-roaming buffalo live in the valley too.
If you come out for a ski vacation and decide to stay, you won’t be the first. Here are four days to get you started.
You could have a great breakfast at Terra Café on the ground floor of your hotel, Hotel Terra, but, since this is your first morning, head for a Teton Village classic. That’s Classic with a capital “C.” The tiny Village Cafe (“VC” to locals) serves breakfast burritos—spicy and mild—to everyone from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort president to Teton Gravity Research athletes. We’ve yet to find a ski town that can unequivocally agree on its best breakfast burrito, but for how substantial it is in your stomach while also being light on your wallet ($6 or so), the VC’s is at the top of most lists. The house-made scones are pretty stellar too.
Jackson's tram is the access point to a majority of Jackson's legendary terrain. Photo by Julie Weinberger.
Fueled up, get your ski (or snowboard) legs under you on Après Vous Mountain, the smaller of the two peaks that make up JHMR. “Small” is relative though. Skiing AV top to bottom still gets you nearly 2,000 feet of vertical. There are wide, fast groomers as well as moderate (for Jackson) black diamond tree runs. You’ll find the latter in Saratoga Bowl. Know that while you’ll see fewer tracks to the left as you’re going down, the further left you go, the more you’ll have to traverse out to get back to the base area. The traverse isn’t heinous (necessarily); just be prepared.
Related Photos: Jackson Hole Storm Gallery
While AV has some great terrain, it’s not what you came here for. Go ahead and get in line for Jackson’s tram, which truly does deserve all the hype around it. If your breakfast burrito is long gone, pop into Corbet’s Cabin at the top of Rendezvous Bowl for a hot, fresh waffle. Toppings include strawberries, powered sugar and Nutella.
The "waffles" sign isn't there merely for decor. This cabin at the top of the tram serves 'em up hot. Photo Courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
While we don’t recommend tackling Corbet’s Couloir and its mandatory-air entrance the first day, you can wander over to the top of it and look down. And then we’d ski back over to Rendezvous Bowl and do a couple—that’s all it usually takes—laps from the resort’s top to bottom. That’s 4,167-vertical feet. Each lap.
When your legs are shot, head for the Mangy Moose, as iconic an après ski scene as there is anywhere. While the Moose’s nachos are towering and tasty, make sure to save room for dinner, which is conveniently at Osteria, on the ground floor of your hotel.
One of Jackson's premier bowls, Rendezvous Bowl is accessed from the tram. Photo by Julie Weinberger.
If you didn’t think ahead enough to make a reservation—Osteria is rightfully one of the most-popular restaurants in the valley—chances are good you can walk in and score a couple of seats at the wine bar (there are 12) or salumi bar (eight). Wherever you sit, make sure to order the deceptively simple and dangerously delicious olives, either wood stone fired or stuffed with house-made sausage and fried. Even though Osteria’s pasta is house-made and the pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven, don’t overlook the “secondi” section of the menu with its pan roasted skate (with lobster/tarragon mashed potatoes, wilted watercress and saffron cream) and Snake River Farms’ Black Label Strip loin (with Italian twice baked potato with guanciale butter, roasted chanterelles and caramelized onion).
For the sake of your quads, today is a half-day on the mountain. The actual town of Jackson—Jackson Hole is the entire 40-some mile long valley and Jackson is the biggest town in the valley—is a 12-mile cab or bus ride from Teton Village. The trip into town is eminently worthwhile.
Start at Pearl Street Bagels, just a few blocks from Jackson’s elk-antler-arched Town Square. They don’t toast their bagels—so don’t bother asking—but they come hot out of the kitchen all day long. Breakfast finished, wander over to the Town Square. Take the requisite photo of yourself standing under one of the arches and then explore the art galleries, gear and souvenir shops lining the Square.
When you’re finished shopping, head for the Visitor Center for a sleigh ride onto the National Elk Refuge. Immediately adjacent to the town of Jackson, the National Elk Refuge is home to thousands of elk every winter. A sleigh can take you right into the middle of the herd. Make sure you have your camera.
Because breakfast was kind of light, you’ll want to grab lunch before heading back out to Teton Village for an afternoon of skiing. Betty Rock, just down the street from Pearl Street Bagels, has a big enough selection of sandwiches, sweets and salads to please everyone.
Back out at Teton Village, head straight for the gondola. There’s never a line and it puts you in a good position to make your way over to the Thunder and Sublette chairs. The Alta Chutes are tight and steep. Bivouac Woods are steep too with the added adrenaline rush of trees. Tensleep Bowl and the Cirque are more open and slightly less steep.
Hotel Terra calls one a pool and the other a hot tub (this is the "pool"); we just call both of the 100+ degree outdoor soaking spots awesome. The other one is adjacent to Chill Spa on the silver LEED-certified hotel's top floor. Photo Courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Hotel Terra has a great spa, the Chill Spa. You really might benefit from a professional rub at this point. Or maybe the high altitude is wreaking havoc on your skin? Chill has the best estiticians in the valley. It also has one of the coolest hot tubs around: it’s on the hotel’s roof.
Food from Chef Wes Hamilton at the Couloir restaurant. Photo Courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Don’t get so relaxed you lose motivation for dinner. If its open—and it’s open Friday and Saturday nights—head for Couloir, the prix-fixe fine dining place atop the gondola. If Couloir isn’t an option, head for Teton Thai, oddly located amid employee housing in a satellite parking lot, but very much worth the five-minute walk.
Today’s the day you’ve been waiting for. Terra Café is a great place to hang out, but get your breakfast there to go this morning. You’re headed to JHMR’s Mountain Sports School to hook up with a backcountry guide. Don’t feel like you’re ready to tackle Jackson’s sidecountry? No worries. The Mountain Sports School does regular lessons too.
Enjoying Jackson Hole's deep powder in Granite Canyon is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Photo by Julie Weinberger.
Whether your guide takes you into Granite Canyon—Mile Long and Endless are just what their names would suggest—over into Four Pines or to Pucker Face, this’ll be the day you’re talking about for the rest of the winter.
If you head right from the slopes to Cascade in Teton Mountain Lodge, that’s fine. It’s a great après ski scene—slightly more upscale than the Moose but just as relaxed—and has quite the dinner menu. Although it’s totally understandable to just grab a drink at Cascade and then head back to Osteria. There’s a lot to try on that menu—did we mention the Cavatelli pasta with house-made provolone sausage, charred celery and roasted red peppers?
Because there’s no way to top yesterday, today is a ski-free day. It’ll still be long though, so you’ll want a big breakfast. Walk up the hill from Hotel Terra to the Westbank Grill at the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole. The pancakes are only mediocre, but any of the three varieties of eggs Benedict are the best in town. There’s a pretty tasty breakfast quesadilla too.
If you prefer to do things on your own, drive up to the quaintly named “town” of Moose (pop. maybe 50). This time of year it’s the most accessible of the park’s entrances. You can join in on a ranger-led snowshoe tour at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center there or head to the Bradley-Taggart Lakes trailhead and do some snowshoe exploring on your own.
If you’d rather someone else do the planning, aim for Yellowstone. It is further away, but it’s possible to take a daylong snowmobile trip from Jackson to Old Faithful.
Other non-skiing options include Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours, where you get a brief lesson in mushing en route to a hot springs pool kept at a comfy 104-degrees. Jackson Hole Paragliding does tandem flights from JHMR as well.
This concludes your four perfect days in Jackson Hole. What—you want more? Join the club and move up to Jackson like so many have done before you.
Dina Mishev is the author of Total Tetons Travel, an app covering things to do and see and places to stay and eat in Jackson Hole. It is available in the iTunes Store and Android Market.