Postcard from Jackson Hole 2
By JC, Cub Reporter

I just completed a week’s visit to the ski area of Jackson Hole, located in the west of Wyoming. The “hole” of Jackson Hole is a surprising and beautiful flat valley in the midst of mountains; the ski mountain is adjacent to the valley and located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. To reach the mountain, most fly into Jackson Hole airport and take a bus through the town of Jackson and on to Teton Village, which is located at the base of the ski area. The trip from the airport takes about 45 minutes.

Jackson Hole offers some 2500 acres of skiing, and is famous for its heavy snows and steep terrain. While it offers a full range of difficulty, the mountain is more challenging than most, and blue runs here could easily be labeled black elsewhere in The West. The base altitude is 6311 feet and ski area rises 4,139 feet. The entire rise can be covered in a single trip up the tram; 10 other chairs also serve the mountain. The mountain offers well-designed traversals to quickly move from one side to the other.

When we arrived, about 330 inches (27.5 feet!) of snow had fallen at mid-mountain, so there was good coverage, and everything was open.

At 1:00 pm on the first day, the temperature at the base was 14 degrees, which makes it sound pretty cold. But Jackson usually benefits from a temperature inversion, so that it was 28 degrees mid-mountain, and 24 degrees at the top. With these cold temperatures, you might suppose that the snow would stay fluffy, but Jackson does not face north as many other ski areas do, and the considerable exposure caused much of the snow to melt and then freeze. Consequently, a good bit of the area off the groomers was like cement. But it was hard to complain as we skied the first two days in sunshine (there was no shortage of groomed runs), and loose snow was to be found by the adventurous.

Dawn of the third day brought 2 to 6 inches of fresh snow, and one could almost ski the powder without noticing the crud underneath. Some places were extremely nice. Oddly, while most of Wyoming had a huge snow storm later in the week, Jackson Hole got virtually none of it.

With one exception, I never encountered a significant line at any lift. And it was not hard to get away from most of the crowd.

The one long wait I had was for the tram, which is the only lift that reaches the top. The tram takes about 50 people per load, but there are only two cars (one going up while the other goes down). This is the last year that the tram will be in service (it has been going for a very long time), and I wanted to take it while I still could. So I waited for an hour for my turn (not including the 12-minute transit time). I didn’t feel a need to repeat the experience, though the view was very nice. (Next year, access to the top will be from a short lift that will bridge the gap between the top of Sublette lift and the peak; full plans for the tram replacement are still incomplete.)

Jackson Hole offers several places on the mountain for lunch and snacks; additionally, Teton Village, right at the base, has several restaurants, available for breakfast lunch and dinner. The Village also has the typical assortment of ski shops and souvenir peddlers. Surprisingly, it also has a very nice concert hall, which offers world-class performers through the Grand Teton Music Festival (www.gtmf.org). Most of the condos are adjacent to the village, and a free shuttle bus will take you between the condos and the center of the base area. The slopes are easily reached from the condos by a lift that’s a short walk; a well-designed runout takes you back to the lift base at the end of the day. (You can also take the shuttle bus from village center if you prefer.)

A word of warning about getting around on foot: They do a good job of snow removal, but the worst job of ice removal I can recall. Expect ice underfoot everywhere. You may wish to visit a ski shop and spend $20 for a pair of devices that attach to the bottom of your shoes and give you traction on ice and snow. (Yaktrax Walker is one such product.)

For more shopping and dining, you can take a shuttle from the village center to the town of Jackson for $3. The buses run every half hour and take about a half hour each direction. Jackson is a good size town, and has everything you’d expect a town to have, but with lots more tourist things and lots more snow. I recommend The Bunnery for lunch. (The carrot cake, served warm, is smashing.)

Jackson Hole is a big and beautiful place. I never got tired of looking out from the slopes and taking in the stunning view of the valley. You won’t either.

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Reader Comments

JohnL
February 22, 2006
Nice informative article.

Though no mention of the Mangey Moose? It's a pretty famous landmark.

Look down the top of Corbett's when you rode up the Tram?
Andy/fishnski
February 22, 2006
I figured that If I ever ventured into that part of the country, one of the draws would be the snowmobiling into Yellowstone from there.....is that still possible?

Ski and Tell

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