The year was 1994. The place was Lillehammer, Norway. The event was the 1994 Winter Olympics. American ski racer Tommy Moe, then 23, snagged gold in the downhill and, four days later on his birthday, silver in the super-G. It was the first time an American alpine skier had won two medals at a single Olympics.
“That was the highlight of my career. I’d never won an international competition before that,” Moe says. That same year, the Montana born-and-bred skier moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. And that’s where we found him to give us the “insider” story at the famed Wyoming ski resort.
“I like it because of the outdoors. The skiing’s really accessible. Kayaking, mountain biking, fishing, everything is right here,” Moe says. But it’s the mountain that made him stay all of these years. “It’s one of those places that you can always ski and never get tired of.”
Moe loves the 4,100-vertical-feet of continuous skiing that Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers. “You can ski the mountain top to bottom,” he says. And despite Jackson’s rep as a hardcore skier’s paradise, one of the things Moe likes best about the mountain is its mix of terrain.
“There’s the steeper, expert side of the mountain, and then 50 percent is intermediate and beginner.”
When Moe’s not working for the Jackson Hole ski school, he’s guiding at Alaska’s Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, which offers heli-skiing and fishing expeditions (sometimes in one trip). Whether you’re coming to Jackson Hole for the skiing or the scene, this resort offers something for everyone.
Tommy Moe’s guide to the best of Jackson Hole
Favorite run: Corbet’s Couloir. It’s pretty much a double-black diamond run. I only ski it when it’s soft. In powder, it’s beautiful. You can ski Corbet’s all the way down to Expert Chutes, then go to Toilet Bowl and then take Gros Ventre to the bottom of the mountain. It’s four runs in one.
Best groomer: Sleeping Indian in Casper Bowl.
Best treeskiing: Thunder lift. There’s amazing glade skiing. The trees are perfectly spread out and there’s a mix of terrain.
Best hike-to terrain: Cody Bowl, just off the top of the tram. It’s accessed through a backcountry gate.
Secret stash: Saratoga Bowl, off the Après Vous lift.
Best month to ski Jackson Hole: January or February because the snow is the driest and it’s the height of the snowpack.
Best on-mountain dining: Couloir restaurant at the top of the Bridger gondola.
Best on-mountain meal: The lasagna at Osteria in the Hotel Terra.
Best après: Mangy Moose. They have the best wings and nachos and a great après scene.
Best restaurant in town: The Rendezvous Bistro.
Best breakfast: Nora’s Fish Creek Inn. Try the huevos rancheros.
Best hotel: The Teton Mountain Lodge. It’s right next to the tram.
Best hot tub: In Teton Village, the Four Seasons.
Insider secret: If you’re a hardcore powder hound, get to the tram early. That means by 7 a.m. as the line is already forming. The tram opens at 9 a.m. Also, scout some of the other backcountry terrains on the north side of the mountain. I won’t give the name away, but people will figure it out if they really want to figure it out.
Powder-day itinerary: Skiing can get jammed up waiting for the tram, so the next option on a powder day is to hit the Bridger gondola. Ski the trees under the gondola—it’s 2,500-vertical-feet of perfect glades. Cut into the singles line on Bridger gondola or Après Vous, which is on the right side of the mountain and is another good option because you can get plenty of turns in while everyone else is standing around waiting for the tram.
Extra tip: If you’re coming to the mountain for the first time, hire a guide. You can bring up to five people with a Jackson Hole ski instructor or hire an alpine guide if you want to explore the side or backcountry. If you get a guide or an instructor for the day, you get line-cutting privileges, which is worth it if it’s busy because you get twice as many runs. (You can even hire Moe himself by contacting the Jackson Hole ski school for an Olympic Day Experience.)
Lots ‘Moe’ to Know
It’s been a while, but Tommy Moe’s star never seems to fade, particularly at his home mountain of Jackson Hole. Here are some interesting facts about this American Olympic superstar:
Tommy Moe was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 2003.
Moe’s most famous moments came at the 1994 Olympics in Norway, but add up all the medals in his trophy case and it looks like this: high-scorer on the U.S. teams in the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Olympics and in the 1989, 1993 and 1996 F.I.S. championships in twelve seasons on the team
He was born in Missoula, Montana on February 17, 1970. He started skiing when he was three. years old. He went to high school at Glacier Creek Ski Academy in Alaska. He landed on the U.S. World Championship Team at age 19.
1994 was simply “the season to remember forever.” Says his Hall of Fame Citation: “At the Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, he etched the run of his life, cutting a brilliant line down the Kvitfjell slope and in front of 30,000 spectators, blazed across the finish four-hundredths of a second, a half-ski length, ahead of Norway’s Aamodt, transfiguring himself into the years most renowned downhiller. Not since Bill Johnson a decade earlier, had an American won an Olympic downhill. Four days later, he proved the Olympic gold was no fluke by winning the silver in the Super-G. Tommy Moe had just become the first American male to win two medals in the same Olympics.”
And even ‘Moe” about Jackson Hole these days
Jackson Hole has a long history and there are more “fun facts” than you can count on a moose’s antlers. First, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has the longest continuous vertical rise of any ski area in the U.S., heading up4,139 feet from the valley floor to the top of Rendezvous Mountain
So, who is “Jackson?” Davey Jackson was an 1880s mountain man who trapped here. A “hole,” way back then was really a high mountain valley.
Talk about your average Elk’s Club? Well, the National Elk Refuge just out of town is home to somer 90,000 elk all winter long. You can get eye-to-eye with one of these big boys on daily snow tours during the winter seaion.
The first ski area in Wyoming was Snow King in Jackson. It opened in 1939 and the lifts are still cranking today. It’s literally right there, steps from the old western town. Take a break to give it a whirl.
You may not get that famous “Rocky Mountain Splitter” here because starting at a mere 6,311 feet, Jackson Hole has one of the lowest base elevations of any ski resort area in the Rocky neighborhood. Most ski resort bases here are between 6,900 and 9,500 feet.