Jackson Hole, USA: Venturing into Skiing’s Wild West
July 31, 2017
Since I was a teenager, I used to dream about skiing North American powder…
For years, my uncle subscribed me to the uber cool ski magazine called Powder. It was only printed in the United States, and it became my bible during my teenage years. I’d lay my head on my pillow at night and dream about all the incredible ski photography by Mark Shapiro, Ace Kvale, and others.
In my dreams, I saw myself skiing unbelievable exotic places like Alaska and Japan thanks to Powder magazine.
My first venture to North America was Aspen. Every ski writer I knew recommended Aspen to me because they knew of my love affair with Courmayeur.
I was told Aspen has a similar vibe – lots of fresh powder, great après-ski, and delicious food. I won’t say anymore except that I chose the wrong week. My first introduction to skiing in North America happened during Aspen Gay Week.
When I first set up Momentum Ski, invites from ski resorts flooded in from both the USA and Canada who were keen to get a piece of the British skier market share. Sadly, due to being busy setting up my business and running City Ski Championships, I couldn’t take advantage of all these amazing opportunities that were flooding my email inbox.
But, one resort stood out from the rest – Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Having seen the write-ups and images in Powder magazine, Corbet’s Couloir and the Wild West and its rawness attracted me to this place. Soon enough, I had my skis and my passport, and I was on a flight to Wyoming.
I will never forget this trip.
It was 1998.
I arrived in a small cowboy town where the men still wore cowboy hats, and the mountains were bigger than their photos. I had an incredible two days of skiing. I knew everyone would ask, “Did you do Corbet’s?” I stood on top of the run with my ski guide, but due to poor landing conditions, my guide discouraged me.
Instead, I hired a car and explored the area.
I drove to Montana via Yellowstone National Park where I saw some incredible scenery and rivers. I skied at three other resorts in Montana: Big Sky, Bridger Bowl, and Red Lodge Mountain. On my way back to Jackson Hole while driving through the national parks and Native American preservation areas, I fell in love with the whole Wild West.
Unfortunately, at the time we didn’t quite have the depth of knowledge to set Jackson Hole up as a Momentum Ski destination, but it has always been on the back of my mind.
Jackson Hole has a special place in my heart, and it’s the reason we’re planning on having a gourmet ski week there soon. Until we have concrete dates on our calendar, let’s look at why Jackson Hole Mountain Resort should be your next ski holiday.
Step Back in Time in Jackson
Jackson is a ski town like no other. Unlike many big ski resort towns of Europe, Jackson has a unique small town atmosphere with lots of character and style. Named after a local beaver trapper, Jackson was just another small ranching town until 1965 when two skiers decided to build a cable car on the other side of the Snake River.
Over 50 years later, Jackson Hole and its charming town are one of the best North American ski resorts.
The town of Jackson is a great place to base yourself during your ski holiday or, at least, spend a day or two. Its population is less than 20,000, so you’ll really get the small-town vibe here. And, keep your eyes out for Harrison Ford. He has an 800-acre ranch nearby and is often spotted shopping at the local hardware store.
Discover the Best American Fares
If you love good food as much as we do, then you will love Jackson Hole. Both the town and the ski village are home to excellent restaurants on and off the mountain. From fine dining to greasy hamburgers, you’ll find it all in Jackson Hole.
If you prefer fine dining, then you’ll want to head to Bin22 in Jackson. This restaurant and bar is an intimate Tuscan-inspired small plates and delicious wines restaurant and an excellent way to end a good day of skiing. The Handle Bar at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole has one of the best Après-ski in Teton Village. It’s where the rich sip their whisky.
Nora’s Fish Creek Inn in Wilson is a James Beard Award-winning brunch spot you don’t want to miss. America is all about the steakhouse so if you’re looking for the quintessential steakhouse, look no further than the Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse and the White Buffalo Club.
Ski the Best Snow in North America
Jackson Hole has two mountains, Apres Vous (2,585 m) and Rendezvous (3,185 m) that make up its 2500 acres and 133 trails. With an average snow of 459 inches (11.6 m) a year, Jackson Hole has something for everyone from expert bowls and backcountry trails to finely groomed beginner pistes. We’re not the only ones who love Jackson Hole. Jackson Hole is ranked as the best ski mountains in North America by Forbes.
I didn’t ski Corbet’s Couloir during my first visit to Jackson Hole, but when I was invited back to Jackson Hole for my good friend Arnie Wilson’s wedding, I knew that I had to ski it. Corbet’s Couloir is rated as one of the best and most challenging pistes in the world. With a mandatory air entrance of between 1.5 m and 5 m and a 40-degree slope, Corbet’s Couloir is not for the faint of heart. But, man, was it awesome!
If you’re not quite as crazy as I am, Rendezvous Trail is a popular winding, intermediate groomer with excellent views of the valley.
Not sure where to start your ski holiday?
Olympic medalist and Ski Guide, Tommy Moe, will be happy to provide you with a private ski tour of the mountain and all his favourite stashes. Tommy is funny, charming, and has been calling Jackson Hole home for over a decade.
Enjoy Jackson Hole Without Skis
While skiing Jackson Hole is an amazing experience, the Jackson Hole area has much to offer you without skis. Hire a car and explore Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and the National Elk Refuge, which are all just a short drive away from Jackson Hole. You’ll see Old Faithful, moose, bison, bald eagles, and more!
Dog sledding is a great way to discover the Rocky Mountains and its wildlife behind a team of Alaskan sled dogs. You won’t find this unique opportunity in the Alps. Jackson might not be home to the upscale boutiques that you might be used to in Europe, but you’ll definitely be able to find a comfortable pair of cowboy boots downtown. After a day of skiing or shopping hit up one of the many spas in the area.
Great Hotels for Every Style
As one of the best ski resorts in North America, Jackson Hole has a broad range of hotels. The Four Seasons Resort offers 5-star upscale luxury with mountain vistas and gourmet cuisine reminiscent of what you would find in Europe. The Amangani has incredible panoramic views of the Teton Mountains and the Snake River Valley. Arnie stayed here during his wedding, and it opened my eyes to boutique hotels. The place is just incredible.
Jackson Hole is an unlike any place in Europe so why not stay in someplace unique? The Wort Hotel is the “grand dame” of downtown where it has been welcoming guests to Jackson since 1941. Spring Creek Ranch offers cabins with wood-burning fireplaces and incredible mountain views with the potential to see elk and bison in their natural habitat.
Spot Incredible Wildlife
You don’t have to go far to see incredible wildlife. It’s something that I remembered well from my first trip to Jackson Hole all those years ago. With several national parks nearby, you can spend the day spotting bison, elk, moose, deer, bald eagles and more. Yellowstone National Park has the largest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states with 61 different mammals calling the national park home.
During my last visit to Jackson Hole, I took a snowmobile tour through Yellowstone and saw so much wildlife and some impressive hot springs. I highly recommend it!
Two Step Like the Cowboys
Unlike other western ski resort towns, Jackson Hole still retains much of its historic charm and rich history.
Every May they celebrate their wild west history at the Annual Old West Days Celebration. Locals here take off their ski boots and put on their cowboy boots, so you’ll find plenty of country music and dancing.
Incredible Mountain Vistas
I fell in love with Jackson Hole from photographs in Powder magazine. As soon as I set foot on the mountain, I realised that the photos didn’t do it justice.
Jackson Hole is just stunning. There are picturesque mountain vistas everywhere you look. With the distinctive Teton Mountains in the background, you don’t want to forget your camera. And, don’t forget about cute little Jackson.
Jackson Hole is an 8-hour drive from the main cities, so it’s less attractive to weekend warriors. Unlike other ski resorts in North America or Europe, you won’t have to queue in line long for the chair lift. Even on the weekends and holidays, the pistes are uncrowded and often found with untouched powder. It’s pure heaven.
Jackson Hole is also near other resorts like Big Sky, Red Lodge, and Bridger Bowl so if you want to hire a car, you can discover some of the other less crowded ski resorts in the region. The drive to Montana is beautiful, and you won’t be disappointed by the scenery.
Book Your Wild West Adventures Today
If you’re tired of the Alps, why not try Jackson Hole?
We know the place well enough now to point you to the right hotels, where to eat and drink, and where to see the best wildlife. Last year I took Heston to Jackson Hole to show him around and see if we could do a US version of our successful Mountain Gourmet Ski Experiences with some of the top US, British, and Aussie chefs. Before doing this, I had to get him to fall in love with the resort as I have. With four incredible days of skiing, excellent dining on and off with mountain with delicious West Coast wines, and beautiful hotels, it wasn’t a hard task.
We’re still working out all the details about a full gourmet ski experience in Jackson Hole so stay tuned for that announcement, but in the meantime, let us know how we can help you plan your next ski holiday to the Wild, Wild West. It’s one of my favourite ski mountains, and I know it will be one of yours, too.