One central narrative runs throughout Jackson Hole’s storied history: the resort offers pure alpine hedonism. This fact is perhaps best expressed by the massive warning sign that skiers and riders should read while waiting to board the famed Aerial Tram, which includes these simple, declarative sentences: "You could make a mistake and suffer personal injury or death. Give this mountain the respect it deserves."
Even the visage of the resort itself can overwhelm. Jackson Hole sits an easy 12-mile drive from the town of the same name, and the collective horizon is dominated by the austere granite peaks of the Grand Tetons. It’s enough to stop you in your tracks – and that’s before you peer down any of its steep 133 runs spread across a copious 2,500 skiable acres.
The ambitious who have always wanted to ski the resort (or those who know what they want and are back for more) typically queue up for that ride in the red tram cars, which delivers 100 ready participants to the summit of 10,450-foot Rendezvous Mountain. From here, you’ve got the entirety of Rendezvous Bowl to explore.
Jackson benchmark runs like Corbet’s Couloir – which requires a dizzying 20- to 30-foot drop into a deathly-steep ten-foot-wide chute –can be easily attained if you’ve got the guts. The summit also accesses other serious terrain like the Tensleep Bowl or the series of blacks – Paint Brush, Tower Three Chute, Hoops Gap and Thunder – that branch out from under the Thunder Quad chair. Or you can target the mid-mountain Sublette Chair for easy access to the Alta Chutes and the runs below Bernie’s Bowl.
All this high-octane terrain is spread across two adjacent mountains; Apres Vous stands skier’s left from Rendezvous and in between those peaks, dozens of open-bowl, high-pitch runs throughout Casper Bowl and the Crags will award those with a thirst for exploration and a tolerance of relatively mellow traversing.
And if easy access to that massive number of defined extreme runs still leaves you yearning for more, Jackson Hole provides easy lift access to more than 3,000 additional acres of backcountry terrain in the adjoining Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park – provided you possess the necessary backwoods experience and equipment.
True to its nature, Jackson Hole also offers a variety of single- and multi-day lessons and clinics, including femme-specific courses and the famed Steep and Deep Camp for both skiers and snowboarders.
But intermediates and beginners shouldn’t feel neglected. Signs atop Rendezvous Mountain, the exit point for the tram, point out the easiest way down the massive bowl. A few careful turns can deliver blue-level skiers and riders to the maze of runs within Cheyenne, Bernie’s and Laramie bowls. All told, there are 22+ groomed runs, from a leg-burning 7.2-miles from the top of the tram to the mountain base to mellow lines off the eight-person Gondola and the Casper Quad.
Only ten percent of the defined runs at Jackson are rated to beginners, but what they lack in expansive terrain they make up with small-group ski classes. They break out into distinct age groups, from multi-day ski camps, rough-riding kindergarteners and first graders to group and single classes for adults.
They also have one beginner-level terrain park and four other "stash" parks throughout the mountain. But really, the intoxicating visage of those towering mountain peaks should imbue first-timers with a lifelong love for the resort.
As impressive as the mountain is, skiing and snowboarding is only part of the overall Jackson Hole story. Teton Village, the mountain base, takes all comers, from ski and boarding bums happy to bed down in a hostel to high-end, eco-friendly digs. The Mangy Moose is an après must-stop, sporting a boisterous crowd already tipsy from the day’s exploits, along with live music to provide the perfect soundtrack for whatever unfolds when the lifts close.
The nearby town of Jackson Hole, meanwhile, perfects the Wild West experience you expect from Wyoming, from divey saloons and the postcard-perfect main town, with arches made of elk horn, to higher-end art galleries and shopping. The town also has a variety of accommodations, and with a number of direct flights from 12 U.S. cities, it’s never been easier to reach both the town and the resort.
Continuously heralded as one of the best après ski bars in the country, the Mangy Moose isn’t exactly known for its refined cuisine. But you still shouldn’t miss it. Open since 1967, this expansive restaurant and saloon pulls both locals and tourists ready to unwind after a crushing day on the mountain, all ready to imbibe on local brews, enjoy the live music and replenish their energy reserves with hearty mountain fare that’s heavy on game and locally-sourced fish.
Or grab a few drinks at the Moose, then hit the Rocky Mountain Oyster Café, below the Mangy Moose, for a ¼-pound grass-fed buffalo burger.
Though the resorts offers a range of lodging, from hostels to a backcountry yurt to the Four Seasons, the LEED-certified Hotel Terra Jackson Hole ranks as one of the best. The sleek and vibrant property includes a rooftop spa, two restaurants, an infinity pool and easy access to the slopes.