Travelers who love the Alps but are overwhelmed by international travel requirements should take this winter to rediscover (or discover anew) the rugged beauty of the Teton mountain range. A trip to Jackson Hole is the closest thing you can get to a vacation in Zermatt without a passport. Wyoming’s jagged, snow-capped peaks are so reminiscent of the Swiss Alps that Grand Teton is known as America’s Matterhorn.
Tucked away in western Wyoming, in a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides, Jackson Hole’s remoteness plays a distinct role in its allure. Its inhospitable climate and conditions—an alpine desert that receives triple-digit inches of snowfall per year—made it undesirable to settlers and Native Americans for centuries. And, as such, it remained uninhabited until the turn of the last century. “Keep Jackson Wild” is the town’s mission statement for a good reason. You can feel this vastness still when you visit today, even though Jackson Hole is now a well-known destination. Read on for where to ski, eat, drink, and explore in Jackson Hole this winter.
Downhill skiing (Image provided by Adobe Stock)
Often ranked among the best ski resorts in North America, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boasts near-limitless backcountry and the infamous Corbet’s Couloir. Yet, due to its remoteness (and a shortage of direct flights), this off-piste paradise remains decidedly less crowded than its neighbors to the southeast, Aspen or Vail—resulting in fresher trails and shorter lift lines. Part of Jackson Hole still feels untouched—and this sense of unspoiled nature, of wild Western possibility, extends to the ski terrain, famous for being steep, deep, and challenging.
Though widely considered an expert’s ski mountain, Jackson Hole recently expanded its groomed terrain, rendering a larger portion of the mountain more accessible to travelers who prefer the après-ski to the ski. And though I would self-identify among the latter category, years of skiing in Jackson Hole have taught me invaluable lessons about slope-side etiquette and survival in the wild. I’ve survived off-piste whiteouts, close encounters of the moose variety, and barely contained panic attacks while surrounded by confident strangers on the Aerial Tram as it barreled towards the summit. (Performance anxiety about anything—much less a 20-foot vertical drop—is a genuine, entirely justifiable emotion when you have one hundred witnesses.) And, if you’re feeling less adventurous, read below for where to après all day.
Top of the World Waffles (Image provided by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort)
When it comes to dining on the mountain this winter, check out Corbet’s Cabin for their famous Top of the World Waffles —or order the famous treat at Off-Piste Market or Rendezvous Lodge, if you’re feeling less adventurous (or hesitant to wait on-line in the tram). But if you’re interested in dining at higher altitudes, we recommend Rendezvous Bistro, or Piste Mountain Bistro, located at the summit of Rendezvous Mountain and the top of the Bridger Gondola, respectively.
Transport yourself to Europe with a culinary adventure to the Italian countryside while dining slopeside in Teton Village at Il Villaggio Osteria, or indulge in some traditional Alpine bliss with cheese and wine at the Bistro at The Alpenhof. A mid-day favorite, the Alpenhof is beloved for its après scene, as well—rendering its proximity to the Aerial Tram potentially dangerous for champagne-fueled (slightly delusional) patrons. Beware your liquid courage—not only does the heaviness of the food make mastering Black Diamonds more challenging, but the giddiness of the wine makes the prospect seem easier than ever.
Enjoying the after-ski (Image provided by Adobe Stock)
Regarding where to ski and be seen, there’s no shortage of options for après-ski (a vital part of the entire experience). Check out the live music and freewheeling spirit of the aptly-named Mangy Moose—you’ll certainly be mangy after a day of skiing Wyoming’s back-country, and you might just run into a moose on the mountain. If you want to enjoy a slightly more upscale post-ski setting, head to The Handlebar at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole. While there, roast some s’mores and enjoy prime people-watching from the gorgeous terrace.
Jackson Hole may pride itself on being the anti-Aspen, but make no mistake: This is still a “ski-and-be-seen” destination, albeit one that is slightly more understated. (Which isn’t saying much when compared to the furs—faux and decidedly less so—on display every Saturday night at Little Nell.) Don’t trust us? Then believe the exceedingly chic downtown boutique, Made, which sells merchandise adorned with the words: ROCK CLIMBER, MOUNTAIN CLIMBER, SOCIAL CLIMBER: JACKSON HOLE.
Ready to say goodbye to all that? Walk over to the Bodega and order a sausage and a sloshie instead. The casual visitor would never expect this unassuming grocery in Teton Village to serve some of Jackson Hole’s most beloved—and dangerously drinkable—creations. It should come as no surprise that the concoctions—essentially an alcoholic slushy—tends to get its drinkers sloshed.
Snowmobiling (Image provided by Adobe Stock)
Skiing isn’t the only way to enjoy Wyoming’s wide-open spaces and endless supplies of fresh powder. Skip the slopes for an afternoon to discover why the off-season is the best season in and around Grand Teton National Park. Snowmobile to the Granite Hot Springs to enjoy the vast beauty of all that western Wyoming has to offer—all of which is more readily appreciated when not navigating Jackson Hole’s famously steep and deep vertical drop. In the afternoon, sign up for a sleigh ride at the National Elk Refuge to explore the magnificent, snow-covered valleys at the foot of the Teton mountain range.
Finally, travelers should strap on their skis once more—the Nordic edition, this time—for off-piste cross-country skiing along the undulating valleys and frozen rivers of the National Park. Dogsledding is another popular option for winter safaris—and one that requires far less effort from its participants. But regardless of whether you dogsled, snow-shoe, Nordic ski, or snowmobile, you must be sure to stop by Dornan’s afterward—a bar and restaurant at the Moose entrance to the National Park that boasts both the best pizza in all of Jackson Hole and the best views in all of Wyoming.