Weekend Getaway: Jackson Hole
Written by Alexa Owen • Aug 04, 2016
Snow is falling, lifts are spinning, craft brews are flowing and cowboys are two-stepping. The hustle and bustle of city life has dissolved into a merry pace of skiing long slopes and eating delicious food. Afternoons ask for luxurious spa treatments and lounging by roaring fireplaces. At night icicle lights twinkle over the downtown streets, where gourmet restaurants serve mouth-watering local cuisine. Need we say more to coax you away to this mountain town paradise? No? Howdy, then: and welcome to Jackson Hole.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a long-standing mecca for big mountain skiing; it boasts the most challenging lift-accessed terrain in North America, and serious skiers have flocked to this mountainous oasis since its beginnings in the 1960s. The aerial tram lifts 100 skiers and riders 4,000 vertical feet every 15 minutes, offering an unparalleled experience in lapping a lot of terrain in just a couple of days. The resort also recently expanded its intermediate terrain by opening the Teton Lift, which offers skiers access to blue and double blue trails across the north side of the resort.
Some go for the skiing, and others go for the experience: we say, go for both. Jackson Hole boasts a sort of casual luxury mingled with old west flair that sets it apart from most Rocky Mountain ski resorts. There’s big money here – clearly apparent through the massive mansions lining much of the road to the resort – and therefore plenty of funds to support a thriving art and restaurant scene. Locals bask unpretentiously in active lifestyles, organic food, lively music and 100+ days of skiing per year; a weekend getaway is an ideal way to dip into the culture and get a taste of the Jackson Hole life.
Local tip: Jackson is crazy in the summer – go in the winter. Talk to locals on the lifts and they might just tell you where the best powder stashes are (or take you there themselves). – Brad S.
A weekend getaway is the perfect excuse to fly directly into the Jackson Hole Airport, which resembles more of a high class ski lodge than anything else. By popular demand, major airlines like United, Delta, and American now offer direct flights into Jackson from 12 major U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a 30 minute drive from the airport; major hotels usually offer airport pickup.
Book an early morning flight to arrive by mid-afternoon; you’ll appreciate the extra time to rest or hit the town running.
Consider renting equipment on-site or renting a kit to be waiting for you on arrival; you’ll save on baggage hassle for such a short stay.
When the pilot announces the descent, be sure to look out the window. Really – if that means obnoxiously leaning over the two people between you and a good view of the Teton Range, just do it. These stunning mountains, which rise dramatically up from the valley floor, must be seen from the sky.
Book at the rustic Snake River Lodge and Spa, which is centrally located in Teton Village at the base of the resort. Complementary airport pickup is available. When booking, ask for a room overlooking the mountain; the 2 bedroom suites with kitchens and spacious living areas are best if you’re looking for down time in the room.
Indulge in a mountaintop dinner at Piste, the resort’s newest fine dining restaurant. Head chef Wes Hamilton sources the best local ingredients to craft contemporary western cuisine like smoked brisket sliders and Kurobuta pork chop topped with toasted barley and blackberry gastrique. Enjoy views of the valley between sips of wine. Don’t miss the skillet baked apple pie topped with homemade vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.
If by now you’ve gotten your second wind, walk across the base village to the Mangy Moose Saloon, the iconic resort ski bar. Get your groove on to live music and local craft beers amidst an eclectic crowd of ski bums and starry-eyed tourists. For a late night snack, opt for the parmesan truffle fries.
Local tip: Stay hydrated. Keep drinking water. You'll need it for 4,000 vertical feet tram laps! -- Ryan H.
For ease (and an impressive buffet spread), roll out of bed and downstairs to the Gamefish Restaurant for breakfast with east facing views of the Gros Ventre mountains and Snake River Valley.
On a powder day, get to the tram line as early as you can (local die-hards line up at 6 a.m. to get first box, but feel free to enjoy your coffee first). For experts, ski Rendezvous Bowl to the base of Thunder chair, then lap the north-facing ridge for bumps and trees. Intermediates can enjoy the wide open groomers off Casper chair and the new Teton Lift.
Local tip: The blues and double blues at Jackson Hole are like blacks at other resorts because they are steeper and get bumped up; go mid-morning for the best grooming conditions. -- Haley B.
Book a table at Spur or drop in for a seat at the bar. Located across the village base inside Teton Mountain Lodge, Spur specializes in casual gourmet fare and fantastic drinks (jalapeno margaritas are a must). Opt for shared starters like dry aged buffalo sliders and fried green “Wyomatos” for the full range of chef Kevin Humphreys’ creative flair.
Hit the slopes to work off lunch, then head back to the Snake River Spa for luxury therapeutic treatments. The 17,000 square foot space features cushy lounge areas, hot tubs, saunas, and an indoor waterfall. Book a heated river stone massage or peppermint foot reflexology for the perfect post skiing wind-down.
Taxi into downtown Jackson (25 minutes) for drinks at Local, located on the iconic town square. You’ll find ice skaters on the small rink just inside the Elk antler arches, which are lit up at night. Local boasts a large horseshoe shaped bar with a small selection of local craft beers, warming wines, and creative cocktails. Sit at the bar to rub shoulders with locals, or one of the cozy booths for a more private experience.
Stroll two blocks away down Broadway and Glenwood to Trio, a long time local favorite for casual fine dining and American bistro eats. Book a reservation well in advance for weekends and holiday periods. Started in 2005 by chef/owners Paul Wireman and Will Bradof, the intimate space boasts a lively, chic atmosphere for a mountain town – not to mention award winning cuisine. Start with sautéed mussels in white wine before moving on to entrees like the Snake River Farms pork chop in tamarind barbeque sauce. Save room for Trio’s famous oven-roasted s’more.
Truth? The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – locally known as The Cowboy – is a tourist hot spot. But if you want your wild west country fix (live music and ten gallon hats included), this is your place. Saddle up at the bar (literally – the bar seats are made of old saddles) for a cocktail, then cut some serious rug on the spacious dance floor. There are also pool tables for mellower fun.
Local tip: Regulars dance hard at The Cowboy, so watch your step or share a two-step with anyone sporting boots and a huge belt buckle.
Catch a tram by 10 a.m. Before heading into Corbet’s Cabin for a bacon peanut butter waffle, hike the small hill above the tram dock for the best photo ops of the Tetons. Then cozy up to the wood stove in Corbet’s Cabin with a fresh waffle loaded with your topping of choice (sweet-tooths, try brown sugar with butter). Take a few laps on Sublette before skiing down The Lower Faces after they’ve softened up by noon.
Pack up your things and head into downtown Jackson for a hearty healthy lunch at Lotus Cafe, the town’s hot spot for gluten-free, vegan, and locavore friendly cuisine. The menu is huge, and features specialties like gluten-free pizza topped with local bison, macrobiotic bowls, and a massive selection of artisan teas. You can also bet that every last sprout was grown in someone’s local greenhouse.
Leave some time to wander around downtown Jackson before heading to the airport. The shops surrounding the town square feature high-end western ware, home décor, as well as hand-crafted goods by regional artists. Don’t miss Mountain Dandy, which boasts hip products and clothing for men. Just off the town square you’ll find the flagship Stio store – stop in here for Jackson Hole original outdoor goods and clothing. The Jackson Bootlegger, located down one flight of stairs off Broadway on the town square, boasts a beautiful selection of western style boots and mountain town footwear.
Local tip: Hats are cooler than T-shirts for souveneirs; find one of those repurposed trucker hats with artwork on the front for something totally Jackson and one-of-a-kind. -- Shawn L.
If shopping isn’t your forte (or you’ve got an hour to spend before catching your flight), consider a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge, located just east of the center of town. This century-old tradition takes visitors on a horse-drawn sleigh through a herd of thousands of Elk that roam into the protected valley for the winter months. The one-of-a-kind wildlife viewing experience also offers a chance for visitors to view eagles, coyotes, foxes, trumpeter swans, and more.