Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has been on my travel bucket list FOREVER. It's home to the longest continuous vertical rise of any ski area in the U.S as well as a large number or skiing and snowboarding's hall of fame, not to mention the legendary Corbett's Couloir. The resort has something of a cult following - for good reason.
I have to admit, though, that my dream of going to and skiing Jackson Hole has always been coupled with a healthy dose of fear - fear that I wouldn't be "good enough" able to ski the whole mountain, fear that it wouldn't live up to the hype, fear that my childhood dreams would be shattered.
We weren't supposed to go skiing this year - we just moved house and hadn't really had a chance to think about travel plans for the year, when out of the blue, an opportunity to take a week off parked itself right in front of us. Finances were tight but with airmiles dangling a crunchy carrot of temptation we decided to look into where they could take us. And whaddaya know, airmiles plus $200 could fly us to Jackson Hole and back. We were sold.
So if you, like us, have dreamt of going to Jackson, here's what you need to know:
1. It's not difficult to get to
The airport is all of 15 minutes from Jackson Hole town and 30 minutes from Teton Village (the base for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the main ski area). There are pros and cons to staying in either but a $3 bus runs regularly between the two and wherever you chose, you can go realistically go from plane seat to hotel room in under an hour. Not something most ski resorts can boast about
2. It's not just for experts
Ok, so it's not an easy mountain to ski, and if you do want the crazy steeps and backcountry there is plenty of it, but there's also enough to keep first timers and intermediates busy too. It's definitely geared more towards the fanatics but I was expecting to see more pro's tearing around the mountain making me feel and look like a novice when in fact, all we saw was a consistently high level of skiing and people of all abilities having fun. So don't be put off!
3. People are remarkably friendly
This isn't France. Ask someone where to ski on a powder day and they'll tell you. Honestly. We shared multiple chair lifts and gondola rides with complete strangers and almost all of them struck up conversations with us. Didn't they realize we were British? Try doing that on the tube! But seriously, people were just friendly. We swapped tips on the best runs and best eats in the resort, we chatted with visitors about where they were from and with locals about where they liked to drink and what living in Jackson was like. By the time we left I felt like we not only knew the place, but the people as well.
4. There is no apres.
People in Jackson and reviews online will tell you that there is. But trust me, there isn't. Sure, there are bars like the Mangy Moose that are busy throwing out pitchers of beers and heaving plates of nachos from 3pm to a background of live music, and it's a great place to hang out after a day on the slopes - but if you've ever been to Europe, you''ll know - it's not apres. Some of the bars in the town have happy hours with food and drink specials, but seriously, it's just happy hour. No loud music, no dancing on tables, no trays of shots. It's all rather civilized and dare I say it rather dull as far as going for a few drinks after a big day on the mountain. For all the stoke and hype surrounding Jackson I was expecting more, but we put it down to the fact that most of the serious skiers and locals don't actually live anywhere near the mountain and faced with a commute, they're unlikely to be found doing the worm in their bra beforehand (guilty).
5. The bar and restaurant scene is phenomenal.
The best of any ski resort I've been to. Forget the usual repertoire of pizza, burgers and fondue, the gastronomy on offer in Jackson Hole is outstanding. We had some fantastic meals in restaurants that would rival those I've been to in New York and London - funky places with talented bartenders mixing up delicious cocktails served alongside imaginative plates of delicious food. Trio, Local and Glorietta were our top picks! PLUS the Pearl St Bagel shop had the most DELICIOUS coffee I've ever had. I'd fly back right now for one of their Latte's.
6. It's actually 3 resorts in 1.
Jackson Hole mountain resort is the flagship but Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole town is not to be sniffed at, while Grand Targhee resort is simply not to be missed. Snow King makes up in steepness what it lacks in size - with only 4 (painfully slow) lifts it boasts a large number of long runs and when the snow is good and visibility is bad up at Teton Village, it's a solid option. We lucked out and found ourselves there on "locals ski free" day which required zero ID (see friendly people comment above) and meant we didn't pay a dime for cruising around for an afternoon. If you want to get warmed up, or take a day off, I'd definitely give it a try.
Grand Targhee on the other hand is certainly not local, but it's 100% worth the drive. Just 1 hour away over the Teton Pass you can get the Targhee Express (book online the night before) or you can hire a car in town, for pretty much the same price as the bus if there's 2 of you, and take the beautiful drive yourself. The resort is heavenly with long, wide runs from the summit to the base, and some great, easy hikes to the backcountry - but more on GT in my next post.
So there you go - 6 preconceptions about Jackson Hole debunked. Stay tuned for more details on our week in Wyoming!