Ultimate Guide to Skiing Jackson Hole
Written by Alexa Owen • May 16, 2017
In the early 1800's a few brave explorers stepped away from the Lewis & Clark expedition to spend time exploring the area that would later be named Jackson Hole. First discovered by fur trappers, then settled mostly by ranchers, it wasn't until the 1960s that lifts started spinning at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The challenging terrain and natural beauty popularized the area among ski bums and wealthy retirees alike, and now the Hole boasts an eclectic mix of characters that call the area home. Outdoors enthusiasts flock to Jackson Hole year-round for the extreme sports offerings, while strong community support for the arts and preservation of the lands continue to build a richly creative culture. So come to ski, shop, see a show or simply stroll around in one of the last towns of the old West: Jackson Hole has something for every ski vacationer.
Although isolated in its own not-so-little valley, Jackson Hole is easily accessible from several major airports. Yet precisely because of the destination, the resort dodges the crowds that frequent ski resorts near Denver and Salt Lake City. The ski area itself has grown into a world-class resort with top-notch infrastructure and staff – and yet visitors of Jackson Hole will likely notice the sincere friendliness that comes from locals who love calling the place home. On the slopes, skiers get some of the best in-bounds terrain in North America; off the slopes, visitors can enjoy excellent shopping, a popular foodie scene, and tours of the pristine natural beauty and wildlife that make the area totally unique.
In this guide, you'll find everything you need to know about the planning the ultimate Jackson Hole Ski Vacation. We clue you in on how to get there, where to stay, what to eat, and how to enjoy yourself on and off the slopes. You'll find insider tips and links to the best ski vacation deals Jackson Hole has to offer. We also tell you where to get the best après beer and where to dance the night away (you know, the really important things). Keep reading for the ultimate guide to skiing Jackson Hole.
Fly into Jackson Hole Airport, which feels more like a luxury ski lodge than anything else. During peak season there are non-stop flights from 12 major U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. The airport is 20 miles from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and most hotels offer transfer service.
One less expensive option includes flying into Salt Lake City International Airport, which is 5 hours drive from Jackson. Rent a car at the airport, or book a shuttle. You'll save big bucks if you had planned to rent a car anyway in Jackson, and when inclement weather hits flights are more likely to land in Salt Lake City.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Top Elevation: 10,450ft
Skiable Terrain: 2,500 acres
Average Annual Snowfall: 459 inches
Day Lift Ticket: $128
Private Lesson: $820
Childcare: Ages 6+ months
The early settlers of Jackson Hole put down roots in the late 1800's, and despite severe winters and challenging growing seasons, the area continued to grow in population. The early 1900's brought skiing to the local mountain Snow King, but it wasn't until the 1960's that trails were cut at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. In 1966, the first Aerial Tram was installed, and could transport 52 people up 4,000 vertical feet in under 11 minutes. Serious skiers seeking the most challenging in-bounds terrain in North America flocked to Jackson for its knee-chattering steeps, chutes, and cliffs. With its rich ranching history and prime location in the “Cowboy State,” Jackson Hole developed into a popular destination for affluent retirees, fine artists, and outdoor sports enthusiasts pursuing contemporary comforts in a piece of the authentic Wild West. Today, Jackson Hole remains a front-runner for top ski resorts in North America, and is most famous for retaining – through all these years – something we skiers call the soul of skiing.
Stay…at Snake River Lodge & Spa for ski-in/ski-out access, fully equipped rooms, and luxry 17,000 square foot spa.
Ski…Rendezvous Bowl to Bivouac (“Bivy”) Woods first run on a powder day, then lap Alta Chutes off Sublette Chair through the morning.
Fine Dining…Book early for a table at award-winning Snake River Grill; contemporary Western fare meets rustic elegance with views of Town Square.
Cheap Eats…Breakfast like a local with take-away breakfast burritos from D.O.G. (Down on Glen) – they'll fuel you for the day while still catching first chair.
Après...with a jalapeno margaritas and a fun crowd at the Spur – located inside Teton Mountain Lodge.
Shop...Be sure to browse through MADE, where you'll find the best and most hip handcrafted gifts by local and national artists
Party…at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar; sure, it's touristy, but there's nowhere better to cut some serious rug or shoot pool with Wyoming locals in 10-gallon hats.
Off The Slopes…Spend an afternoon on a National Elk Refuge Tour: a horse-drawn sleigh takes visitors on an up-close and personal tour of the elk herd that occupies the refuge just east of town.
Don't Miss…Rendezvous Festival at the end of March for après parties at the base of the tram and outdoor concerts by acts like Michael Franti and Zach Brown Band.
Stay in Teton Village for ski-in/ski-out access – the town of Jackson is 20 minutes away and easily reachable by taxi or the town's bus system. Opt for digs in downtown Jackson if shopping and nightlife are priorities.
Choose from 135 luxury rooms or multi-bedroom suites at Snake River Lodge and Spa; there's also an award-winning 17,000 square foot spa, ski valet, and babysitting services slopeside in Teton Village.
For resort views and the best outdoor pool in Teton Village, stay at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole. Rooms are appropriately decorated in rustic elegance, and visitors also enjoy 2 on-site restaurants, spa, and ski-in/ski-out access.
Eco-friendly and contemporary, Hotel Terra boasts the best rooftop hot tub in Teton Village, not to mention a dedication to environmentally-friendly practices. Get a room with a view of the Tram for the best people-watching.
The recently renovated Snow King Resort Hotel in downtown Jackson offers modern digs, cozy restaurant, free resort shuttle and easy access to Snow King (the “town hill”) if JHMR is getting too crowded for your taste. We also love it for its close proximity to shopping, restaurants, and nightlife.
The Hostel is an historic and hospitable option for those on a tight budget. Opt for the dorms if you're traveling with friends, or one of the few private rooms for a still unbeatable price. Just be sure to book early – this place fills up fast in peak season.
The centrally-located 49'er Inn & Suites boasts 140 rooms, indoor and outdoor hot tub, fitness center, continental breakfast, and shuttle-stop to the resort. The value price and prime location 2 blocks from the town square is ideal for those who don't mind the 30-minute commute to the slopes.
Visitors are pleasantly surprised by the high-end eats offered in Teton Village. Reservations are recommended everywhere during weekends and peak periods.
Opt for dining with a view at Piste Mountain Bistro; a gondola ride delivers guests to the casually upscale eatery at the top of Rendezvous Peak, and chefs craft creative Rocky Mountain Western fare sourced from local, sustainable farms.
Inside the Four Seasons you'll find the Westbank Grill, a cozy fine dining space with stone fireplace and views of the resort. They're known for their high-end steaks and comfort foods, as well as an impressive wine list.
Head to Osteria for fine Italian fare at the base of Teton Village. The ski-in/ski-out location makes it a great option for an elegant lunch, or make a reservation for dinner out – the fusilli with fennel sausage and chilies is a local favorite!
Some say Jackson boasts eclectic fine dining fare comparable to San Francisco, and yes, the town is certainly a foodie haven. Local chefs continue to up the ante when it comes to sustainably-sourced, creative fare.
The Snake River Grill has been a fine dining mainstay in the town of Jackson for 20 years, and while dress code is Jackson casual, the cuisine is absolutely divine. Start with upscale comfort eats like the branding iron of sweet onion rings, followed by entrees like Spanish Iberico pork roulade with morel mushroom stuffing.
Tucked into a cozy bistro space off Glenwood Street, Trio is a local favorite for wood-oven fired pizzas, American bistro fare, and their famous blood-orange margaritas. When tables are full, we recommend splitting a small plate and bottle of wine at the bar, which overlooks the open kitchen.
One of Jackson Hole's best kept secrets, Wild Sage offers diners a quiet space to enjoy fine dining fare inspired by local lifestyle. The space has only 8 tables, making it ideal for a private, romantic night out.
We love Teton Village for its compact layout – you can bar hop through après hour without having to walk more than 100 meters. When the sun is out, opt for a beer outside Nick Wilson's – there's usually live music on weekends under the tram.
One of the newer bars in Teton Village, the Handlebar is a top pick for its slopeside views and tasty après eats. There's also an excellent selection of local and international whiskeys and beer. The game room next-door will keep the kids happy.
Hang with locals at the Spur for lively conversation, local draft beers, and upscale comfort eats prepared by award-winning chef Kevin Humphreys. And whatever you do, don't miss a taste of their (in)famous jalapeno margarita or bacon bloody mary.
We're sure you've heard stories about the Mangy Moose, which brings in rockin' live bands for après hour and gets packed on weekend afternoons. Get there by 3:30 for a table, or rub shoulders with longtime Jacksonites at the bar. You'll enjoy the eclectic memorabilia on the walls that offers a peak into Jackson Hole Mountain Resort history.
There's a lull between the end of après and the start of a night out on the town, unless special events or theme nights at local bars are on the schedule. Have a good meal and a nap, and head out by 10pm. The town of Jackson is far-more lively than Teton Village.
We wouldn't say Jackson Hole has nightclubs per say, but there are a couple of spots that boast decent DJ's some nights of the week.
Head to downtown Jackson for late night dancing to local bands and DJ's at the Town Square Tavern; the bar has the largest dance space in Jackson, and while it tends to be most popular with younger crowds, this is the place to go for anyone looking for the most “club” Jackson gets.
We'll clue you in on a local secret: Thursday nights light up the historic Stagecoach Bar in Wilson with the infamously themed “Disco Night.” Ladies get a free drink, and the DJ's music shifts from disco to deep house around midnight.
Jackson Hole is a ski town with plenty of classic ski town bars. Some are new, some are old, but all – okay, most – offer visitors that authentic community vibe.
Centrally located on the town square, Local boasts an historic horseshoe bar and high top tables perfect for sharing late night apps and local draft beers. There's also a tastefully placed big screen TV to catch sports events.
If you missed the Mangy Moose for après, circle around late night to catch local and regional live bands at the hottest ski bar in the Village. Saturdays go as late as 2am when there's a big show.
Enjoy crafty cocktails and elegant ambiance at the few lounge-style bars in Teton Village and town of Jackson.
In the same building as the Pink Garter Theater you'll find The Rose, a semi-swanky lounge bar where bartenders pride themselves on creative cocktails. Grab one of the round booths and enjoy the bar's buzz before a show.
Drop by the lounge inside The Lodge at Jackson Hole for a nightcap by the stone fireplace. The space is quiet by 9pm, and ideal for those staying in Teton Village.
There's a creative energy in Jackson Hole that locals have cultivated over the past decades to create businesses that reflect the area's rustic roots – this makes for some of the best shopping in the Rocky Mountain West. This is the place to get some authentic cowboy boots and super hip outdoor wear.
Head down to the Jackson Bootlegger for a selection of high-end footwear and (most importantly), cowboy boots. They also boast apparel, men's and kid's shoes, and unique Jackson accessories.
For the hip mountain men, there's no other place to shop but Mountain Dandy. From tasteful “beer mittens” to antler tine razors, this store offers the most unique (and hip) selection of goods we've seen for mountain town men.
Inspired by big mountain lifestyle, Stio creates gear and clothing that boast functionality and style – meaning you can sport it in the Rocky Mountains or Manhattan and still be the best dressed “outdoorsy kind” around. Head to the flagship store off Cache Street when you're shopping around town.
Jackson Hole offers all the usual activities of major destination ski resorts, plus a few offerings unique to the natural wonder of the Tetons. Here are a few not-to-miss ways to see and experience Jackson Hole – and yes – all worth one afternoon off from the slopes:
Spend a day in the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park with a snowmobiling tour. Much of the park's roads are closed during the winter, so snowmobiling offers access to sites like Old Faithful and wildlife sites otherwise inaccessible.
Indulge in a private tour to the Rock Spring's Yurt – a secluded yurt in the Jackson Hole Backcountry. The excursion includes private tour into the yurt, gourmet meal cooked by private chef, and cozy overnight bunks.
See the sights from the sky with a tandem paragliding flight. No experience is necessary; flights start from the top of the gondola and last 30-40 minutes as guest and guide fly over the valley below. This is by far the most stunning way to see the Tetons.
Jackson Hole is all about outdoor adventure, and the stunning natural scenery and wildlife make for a unique backdrop to fun off the slopes. Watch for moose along the Snake River, bask in the beauty of Teton sunsets, and try one of these organized activities when your little tykes need a break from the slopes.
The newly remodeled Jackson Hole Toy Store is a hit with little ones: boasting a huge collection of toys from around the world, themed interactive sections, and magical interior, kids will love shopping and exploring for toys that foster creativity and insight into Jackson Hole history.
Spend an evening at King Tubes, the multi-lane tubing facility located in town at Snow King Resort. Lanes are lift-serviced by a rope tow and the incline is mellow enough for families to slide down together.
Take an afternoon off from the slopes for a guided sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge. Thousands of elk make their way down from the high country to the valley floor each winter, and the horse-drawn sleigh ride brings visitors up close and personal with the herd.