Jackson Hole is famous for its aerial tram, nicknamed the Big Red, but what about the other lifts? There’s a high-speed gondola and one magic carpet, with the rest consisting of quad and double chairlifts. On the whole the lifts are fast, but you can count on queues during and around Christmas, New Year, Martin Luther King Day, and President’s Day.
Dodge the Queues
Everybody wants to ride the Tram, but there are times when you’d be better off avoiding it. First thing in the morning, right after lunch, or anytime on a powder day you can expect plenty of people waiting. Local die-hards even line up at 6:00am to get first box! One trick to skip the line is with a guide or instructor, who will fast track you to the front. If you do make it up, be sure to hike the small hill above the tram dock for the best photos ops of the Tetons. Otherwise, avoid that long, slow queue by taking the Bridger Gondola and then connecting on to the Thunder Quad Chair. From here you can ski the Expert Chutes or head over to the Sublette Quad Chair to take on the Hobacks!
Score the Best Snow
After plenty of fresh snowfall our top pick for deep powder skiing is the Hobacks. Hit it up early as the sun hits this part of the mountain first, so waking up late on warmer days could mean more sludge than snow. If you’re skiing Jackson Hole during spring you’ll find smooth corn here during the afternoons. Quite honestly, the wide-open territory of the Hobacks can serve up some of the world’s best inbounds powder skiing, so don’t miss it!
With regular snowfall, packed powder is generally found all over the mountain so finding freshies isn’t too hard if you know where to look. If it doesn’t snow for a couple of weeks you can expect hardpack. Keep in mind that as the temperatures rise here you’ll need to be riding the right exposures on the mountain to find that quality winter snow. Once mid-March rolls around you’ll be mostly skiing soft slush or sunbaked coral reef.
Insider Ski Tips
Sometimes you can only learn through experience, but here are two things worth knowing to make your ski day at Jackson Hole more enjoyable. First up, when the weather turns nasty, with cloud-socked and stormy skies, don’t bother taking the Tram to the top. During a whiteout trying to ski down the Rendezvous Bowl is absolutely terrifying!
Another spot to avoid on the mountain is the Amphitheater blue run, a designated slow zone enforced by mountain patrol. It’s a real bottleneck that attracts every level of skier and snowboarder, often creating a crowded mess. Being the busiest area on the mountain makes it well worth avoiding when you can!
Where to ski – Best for Beginners
At just 10% of all trails, you won’t find a ton of beginner terrain at Jackson Hole. The handful of green slopes here are all on the Apres Vous side of the mountain, above the Bridger Center. Here you’ll find a bunch of gentle groomed runs that are wide and open, perfect for practicing. Just be aware that some slopes do attract traffic from higher up on the mountain, so keep your eyes peeled for advanced skiers speeding down to the Bridger Gondola or parking lots.
One particularly quiet slope that’s generally just used by beginners is Lower Teewinot, easily accessed from the Teewinot Quad Chair. Another great spot for never-evers is just off the Sweetwater Gondola, at the Solitude Mid-Station. Here you’ll find a covered magic carpet to keep you lapping a nursery slope, so get your turns nailed here before moving up any higher on the mountain!
Best for Intermediates
Intermediates will find plenty to keep them occupied, 40% of the pistes are either blue or double blue, though some might consider them more like blacks at other resorts since they're steeper. It's best to go mid-morning for the best grooming conditions. Head up the Bridger Gondola to start off, from where you can try out a range of intermediate trails. The Lower Caspar area is also packed with blue runs crisscrossing the mountain so you shouldn’t run into any problems there. Be sure to check out Easy Does It and wide open groomers off the Casper Quad Chair.
Taking the Apres Vous Quad Chair puts you in a prime position for sampling some even quieter intermediate runs, with Werner, Moran, and Upper Teewinot all serving up a decent gradient for carving and testing how much speed you can handle! This is also a prime spot for trying out some tree skiing while having the safety of a groomed run to cut back onto if you need it.
Best for Advanced/ Experts
With 50% of all the ski trails classed as advanced or expert, hardcore skiers are in for a real treat at Jackson Hole. The first test of your mettle should be the completely ungroomed Rendezvous Bowl, accessed from the top of the Tram. Enjoy epic views of the Grand Teton National Park if you can take your eyes off your line for a moment!
The precipitous face at the start soon mellows out a tad into terrain that’s more confident intermediate than advanced. Towards the end, there are two paths to link onto: either continuing on more intermediate terrain or up onto a ridge through to the Bivouac (“Bivy”) and Cheyenne woods where you can experience some of the steepest tree runs you’ll have ever skied.
Another spot not to miss is the Hobacks. When there’s enough snow for these south-facing runs to open and sun exposure hasn’t baked the powder, you’re in for a real treat. Enjoy epic powder-packed black trails, with a sustained pitch of 28 degrees for 2,000 ft of vertical. Even experienced athletes are beaten into submission when skiing the Hobacks!
Other areas at Jackson Hole worth a mention (and a ski) are Cheyenne Bowl, Tensleep Bowl, and Saratoga Bowl, each offering something different to ride. Or if bowls aren’t your thing, lap Alta Chutes off Sublette Quad Chair, you’ll love it!
Best for Off-Piste & Backcountry
Getting off-piste in Jackson Hole is simple. You’ll see swathes of ungroomed terrain from the lifts so pick your spot and choose a line while you’re riding up the mountain! Kick things off with a trip to the top of the Thunder Quad Chair, from which there are some excellent north-facing sections back down towards the start of the lift. Paint Brush, Tower Three Chute, and Hoops Gap are all top spots to find a powder stash!
When it comes to backcountry gates, Jackson Hole has been doing it right for a long time already. It was one of the first US ski resorts to operate an open gates policy, and now there are gates all over the ski area. An awesome place to start is with a hike along the Headwall to the Caspar Bowl gates. It’s a short but steep hike that’s worth every step as the snow in the chutes here is generally protected from exposure. There’s plenty to choose from, but try one of the Shots, it’s like real backcountry but you’ll still be inbounds!
With so much gnarly natural terrain on offer at Jackson Hole, you could forgive the resort if they didn’t produce the goods when it comes to terrain parks, but luckily they have! There are two main terrain parks, Antelope Flats for the little park rats and freestyle newbies, plus Bronco Park for big air aficionados and accomplished tricksters. The Teewinot Quad Chair makes it easy to lap Bronco Park, but to access the half pipe located further up the mountain you’ll need to take the Apres Vous Quad Chair.
In addition to these two fine terrain parks, there are four Burton Stash Parks dotted around the ski area. These parks combine natural mountain features with manmade features constructed out of wood found on the mountain. Little Stash is perfect for youngsters, Deer Flat Stash is the place to practice, Campground Stash will test your skills, and Stashley Ridge is where the best local skiers and snowboarders throw down their biggest tricks!
You won’t find any night skiing at Jackson Hole, but if you must carry on skiing after dark there is an option nearby. Snow King Mountain Resort, found on the town border of Jackson, lights up a slope from 4:00pm to 7:00pm. Expect to pay around $25 for the privilege, and the temperature to drop into single digits.