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Yes, the family-owned Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) has a reputation as a place for extreme skiers, but over the last decade, it has put some serious time and money into becoming more family-friendly. Don't worry -- all the extreme terrain and backcountry access is still here – they are just tempered by more intermediate runs and faster lifts servicing beginner and intermediate terrain. Not that the crowds have caught on. JHMR has yet to hit 500,000 skier days in a season.
The base area and on-mountain amenities have seen major improvements too. A decade ago, there was nothing fancy about Teton Village, the alpine-style hamlet at the base of JHMR. Today there is the world’s first slopeside Four Seasons, fine dining, a LEED-certified luxury boutique hotel, ski shops carrying everything from Bogner to The North Face and spas with treatments rooms kept cozy by private fireplaces.
Know that JHMR is 12 miles from the actual town of Jackson, which is the largest town in the 42-mile long valley that is Jackson Hole. Skiers stay in both Teton Village and Jackson; there’s more shopping and restaurants in Jackson, but the skiing is closer when you stay in the former. It’s up to you to decide.
--Story by Dina Mishev
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Resort Overview Video //
“Our mountain is like nothing you have skied before!” So begin signs at the base and top of the 100-passenger Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, or JHMR for short, which stretches 4,139-feet from the base area to the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain. The sign continues. “It is huge. With variable terrain from groomed slopes to dangerous cliff areas and dangerously variable weather and snow conditions. You must always exercise extreme caution. You could become lost. You could make a mistake and suffer personal injury or death. Protect yourself – understand the trail map and ask questions before you proceed. Obey all trail signs and markers. Please think and be careful. Give this special mountain the respect it demands!”
These signs aren’t being overly dramatic. Even the most skilled skiers can find themselves in trouble around JHMR’s 2,500 acres. The 116 named runs (half of which are advanced) are well marked though, so most often you have to go looking for trouble. You also have to look hard to find lift lines. Not counting the tram on a powder morning, a long line at JHMR is five minutes.
Starting just below the existing Thunder Lift, Marmot lift rises 1,200 feet across Rendezvous Mountain to the top of the Bridger Gondola. Formerly, the only way to get from Thunder to the Gondola was to ski all the way down to the base area and then take the gondola up. The Marmot lift not only shines when you’re starving at the base of Thunder, but also during early and late season. It’ll let you stay most all day at mid- and upper-elevations.
People joke that a “powder day” at JHMR is more a “powder hour.” Locals here are hard-charging and can track out the area faster than you can say, “JHMR got 558 inches, the second highest total ever at the resort, in the 2010-2011 season.” Don’t think hiring a guide on a powder day is for sissies; it’s the smartest move if you’re looking to log some serious vertical and face shots or to really explore the resort’s 3,000+ acres of backcountry. In 1999, when JHMR opened the gates to lift-accessed backcountry, it was one of only a very few resorts to allow skiers and boarders to exit in-bounds terrain.
If you don’t want to go with a guide, your best bet it to head for places that take a little work to get to. The Headwall and Casper Bowl are inbounds, but still require a 20-minute hike from the top of the Bridger Gondola.
If hiking is an anathema to you, Saratoga Bowl and Moran Woods, off Apres Vous and Casper, respectively, aren’t as steep or as long as the Hobacks (off the Sublette Quad), but, because of that, do usually offer fresh tracks for longer. The trees to either side of Pepi’s Ridge (Sublette Quad) can hold powder for a while too.
If you have the necessary backcountry gear – transceiver, shovel, probe – and skills, go ahead and aim for some true backcountry. Rock Springs and Cody Bowl, both just south of the resort boundaries and accessed through marked gates, are good starters, albeit fairly easy to get to so fresh powder doesn’t last long there.
Backcountry runs in Granite Canyon, to the north of the resort in Grand Teton National Park and accessed from the top of the tram or the Apres Vous lift, are more committing. They require route finding skills, or, better yet, someone who knows the area willing to let you follow them. Know that even though you don’t need climbing skins to get out of Granite Canyon, they’re never a bad thing to have in your backcountry pack in case you do get lost. The way back to the resort from Granite Canyon is a traverse, but not completely downhill. Expect to expend some (serious) energy before popping out near the bottom of the Apres Vous lift.
Groomers and Family
Consider this fair warning: The resort’s only beginner terrain is off the Eagle’s Rest double chair and the high-speed quad Teewinot lift next to the gondola in the base area. Together, the two lifts make for a nice learner’s area. Once you’re beyond beginner though, you’ll most likely find it boring, although the resort does a great job of cutting tracks into the woods between the wide-open runs. It is most often kids that avail themselves of these little off-piste adventures though.
Once you’re an intermediate skier, you have quite a few choices at JHMR. If you don’t want to worry about having to pay particular attention to a trail map (and perhaps ending up above a cliff), Apres Vous Mountain is your best bet. The smaller and less cliff-y of the resort’s two mountains is serviced by a high-speed quad from the top of the Teewinot lift and, heading skier’s right from the top of the lift, has an array of groomed intermediate runs stretching its entire face.
The easiest intermediate runs on the mountain, which are still a big jump in difficulty for those coming from the resort’s green runs, are off the Casper Bowl Triple Chair. Easy Does It, Lift Line, and Camp Ground are the most mellow runs off this lift.
Horn’s Hole Traverse to Amphitheater from the top of the high-speed quad Thunder Chair, make another of the resort’s more mellow intermediate runs. The Bridger Gondola accesses a lot of intermediate groomers, but they are substantially steeper than the runs mentioned off Casper and Thunder. Gondola intermediates are generally moderately steeper than the intermediate runs off the Apres Vous lift.
As of the 2010-2011 winter, JHMR was home to the only Burton Stash Parks in the Rockies. Using the natural terrain, local wood, and “all the creative elements the mountain has to offer” (to quote a JHMR press release), the Burton Stash Parks – there are four scattered around Apres Vous Mountain – challenge riders’ imaginations along with their ability to defy gravity. Scattered about as they are with fun features like giant carved wooden animals, they make for fun spectating too.
Between the four areas, you’ll find 54 features, including log slides, jumps, pillows, and a vertical, curving wall riders fly around before launching out into empty air. Even those with no intention of their skis or board losing contact with the snow should swing by to check it out.
JHMR also has two terrain parks – one expert and one beginner – and a 400-foot long, 18-foot high superpipe. The beginner park is dominated by knee-high mini rippers – heck, the expert park often seems to be as well! — but you will occasionally see an adult checking out the rails or mini-jumps. The expert park does have some intermediate features, so burgeoning tricksters don’t have to go from the three-foot jumps in the beginner park to a halfpipe with 18-foot walls. The resort’s superpipe has its own dedicated staff and groomer.
The Village Café is one of the few remnants of the Old School Teton Village that rapidly began disappearing after Four Seasons opened in the base area in 2003. The VC isn’t exactly a hole in the wall — there’s a tiny bit of room to mill around in front of the glass case stuffed with baked goods — and its food, including monstrous breakfast muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, burritos, and pizza slices, is really quite good. But there’s not a piece of white linen in sight (for that matter, tables are in short supply too), prices don’t even begin to approach pretentious, and walls are covered in stickers.
If you’re staying in Jackson and driving out to the Village, a short detour to Nora’s Fish Creek Inn in Wilson at the base of Teton Pass is eminently worthwhile. In a cozy log cabin with a Tulakivi wood-burning stove, Nora’s has everything from Banana Bread French Toast to a number of egg concoctions on the menu. There’s usually a wait for a table – and everyone who walks in the door is subject to the same wait, even the occasional celebrity (David Letterman, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Harrison Ford) -- but seats at the U-shaped bar turn over fairly quickly.
The Village Café
3200 McCollister Dr.
Nora’s Fish Creek Inn
5600 W. Wyo. Highway 22
JHMR’s on-mountain dining scene was one of the last things at the resort to go fancy. One look at the cupcakes and rice crispy treats the size of your face, the sky-high sandwiches, and Salt-baked Idaho Potato bar at Rendezvous at the top of the gondola, and you’ll agree it was worth the wait. The Casper Restaurant has fewer choices, but the roaring open stone fireplace more than makes up for it.
If your legs are aching to take a break from the mountain, Teton Thai is, without a doubt, the valley’s best Thai food. Formerly hidden in a side alley just off Jackson’s Town Square, Teton Thai has moved into a new building next to the $5 parking lot at the Village. From the base area, it’s a five-minute walk, or you can hitch a ride on one of JHMR’s big red buses constantly shuttling between the base area and the lot. You can’t really go wrong with anything here, although expect prices to be a couple of dollars more than you’d pay at a Thai place back home.
7342 Granite Loop Rd.
For nights when price isn’t an issue, Couloir, (307-739-2675) the fine dining restaurant at 9,065 feet atop the gondola, is hard to beat. Plus, any meal that requires a gondola gets some serious cool points. Couloir could stop there, but it doesn’t. Its four-course prix-fixe menu includes some of the best dishes in town: Tenderloin of Buffalo; Pan-Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras; Spicy Grilled Ono with Coriander. Desserts come from one of the valley’s best pastry chefs.
Back down in Teton Village, Il Villaggio Osteria (or just Osteria) inside Hotel Terra, has a very different vibe -- more hip than haute -- and what might very possibly be the world’s best boar ravioli. The pizzas, cooked to order in a wood-fired oven, are pretty close to perfect. The fried olives stuffed with housemade sausage are out-of-this-world good. Located between Teton Village and Jackson on the Moose Wilson Road, Q Roadhouse has the most sophisticated menu of any roadhouse we’ve ever seen: ginger lime salad, grilled South Carolina quail, quinoa not-so meatloaf (sauteed kale, green beans, smoked tomato and chipotle sauce), and sweet tea brined chicken fried chicken. In Jackson, locals are split as to their favorite completely casual option – either the Snake River Brewery (aka “the Brew Pub”) or Betty Rock. Betty Rock does an all-you-can-eat-pizza night every Thursday ($15). The Brew Pub has at least seven of its award-winning beers on tap at all times and the portions of everything – but especially the pastas – are huge.
Il Villaggio Osteria
3335 Teton Village Dr.
2550 Moose Wilson Rd.
Snake River Brewery
265 S. Millward
325 W. Pearl Ave.
Around since 1967, the Mangy Moose is the classic Teton Village apres ski scene. It qualifies as a Village institution at this point, and the giant plate of nachos definitely qualifies as an institution. While the 20-something ski bums like the Moose’s cheap pitchers, vacationers appreciate the extensive top shelf liquors, the skilled bartenders, and the quality live music (Medeski, Martin & Wood, G. Love and Special Sauce, Maceo Parker, Blues Traveler, Reverend Horton Heat, and Martin Sexton have all played at the Moose).
Families and those who prefer the soothing sounds of a live pianist to the press of the crowds often at the Moose might want to head to the Four Seasons Lounge instead. The soothing space – not to mention its sushi and sake menu – can’t help but relax. In Wilson, the Stagecoach Bar is the place to be Thursday nights and Sunday Night. Every Thursday, the ‘Coach channels the 70s, drawing most every 20-something in the valley to its dance floor, with Disco Night. Sunday nights are a completely different crowd. The Stagecoach Band takes the stage with its mix of swing, country, western, and anything else it pleases.
Smack on the Town Square in Jackson under bright neon lights, you’d never call The Million Dollar Cowboy Saloon a ski bar, but it is a classic valley watering hole and has live music a couple of times a week. It’s also got some of the best people watching around: real and wanna-be cowboys mingle with co-eds, the occasionally Hollywood star, and the valley’s best western swing dancers. Sadly, you have to do your people watching from a saddle. There are no normal bar stools here.
3285 W. McCollister Dr.
Four Seasons Lounge
7680 Granite Loop Rd.
5800 W. Wyo. 22
The Million Dollar Cowboy Saloon
25 N. Cache St.
Corbett’s Couloir might be the resort’s most famous run, but the fresh waffles topped with everything from Nutella to strawberries served up at Corbett’s Cabin are worthy of some serious contemplation too. Have one before heading over to Corbett’s. The mandatory air to get into the famous couloir is less intimidating on a full stomach.
The Snake River Lodge & Spa doesn’t have the best spa in Teton Village, but it does allow spa day guests to use its pool and outdoor hot tub, which might be the Village’s best. The Four Seasons pool is awesome as well, but the only way you can use it is if you’re an overnight guest at the property.
JHMR’s Mountain Sports School is awesome. There are lessons for all ages and levels. Adults signing up for group lessons at intermediate levels and higher often end up with a semi-private lesson.
Under the Mangy Moose, the Rocky Mountain Oyster Café serves 1/4-pound grass fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef burgers starting at $4.50. A buffalo burger is $6.50.
Don’t be afraid to take a day off. Grand Teton National Park is literally right next to JHMR. Yellowstone National Park is an hour away and numerous outfitters in Jackson offer day-long snowmobile trips to Old Faithful, which is a much nicer place to visit in winter than summer when thousands of people can be gawking at the geyser. In winter, there might be several dozen.
There are few resorts in the country that can compete with JHMR. Twelve miles away, Snow King Resort is smart enough not to try. Jackson’s “town hill,” Snow King is still a local’s favorite. It offers two-hour lift tickets, night skiing, 1,500-feet of vertical, a tubing park, and, from both mid-mountain and the summit, fantastic views of the Tetons. It is north facing though, so it’s usually pretty chilly.
Back at JHMR, the best views of Corbett’s Couloir – other than those you get standing at its lip – are from the southern deck at Couloir atop the Bridger Gondola.
No reservations are needed for the free, twice-daily (9:30am and 1:00pm) Mountain Tour. You do need to be an intermediate skier. Tour meets in front of Walk Festival Hall.
Get stoked for your Jackson Hole ski vacation with a screening of Swift. Silent. Deep., a documentary about the legendary Jackson Hole Air Force. Called “North America’s most infamous secret ski fraternity,” the Jackson Hole Air Force was instrumental in the evolution of extreme skiing. Starring JHAF founders Benny Wilson and Howie Henderson, Swift. Silent. Deep. also features Warren Miller, Scot Schmidt, and the late, great Doug Coombs.
Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 550
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