Jackson Hole

The world-famous Wyoming ski area shines even after the snow

Standing at the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain, with the improbable flatness of Jackson Hole below you and craggy, snow-covered mountains exploding in every direction, it’s easy to think there’s no sight more beautiful in the world. Until you return to see the same place after the snow has melted.

Most people first come to Jackson Hole in northwest Wyoming for the skiing. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is one of the country’s best in terms of snow, terrain and, increasingly, base area amenities. But summer is why people come back. Skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and sleigh rides are nice, especially when done without the crowds that bother many other ski resorts. But summer brings even more variety: hiking, mountain and road biking, climbing, symphony concerts, fly fishing, a wine auction, scenic and whitewater rafting, lounging at the Town Square, scenic chair rides, horseback riding, rodeos and marveling at the country’s largest free-roaming buffalo herd in a field of arrowleaf balsamroots as yellow as the sun.

The southern gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks and the still-beating heart of the Old West, Jackson Hole has long been a playground for the rich and famous who don’t want to flaunt their riches or fame. Harrison Ford lives quietly on a ranch in the valley, and former Vice President Dick Cheney does as well (on a golf course rather than a ranch, however). No one is surprised if they see celebrities such as Sandra Bullock, Jim Carrey, Sting or Brad Pitt strolling along the wooden boardwalks in downtown Jackson or enjoying wine and pizza on the deck of Dornan’s in Moose. (Yes, there is a town in Jackson Hole called Moose.)

But, before delving deeper into Jackson Hole, let’s clarify something. “Jackson Hole” is the 42-mile-long, 8-mile-wide valley the towns of Jackson, Teton Village, Moose, Moran, Kelly and Wilson are in. Jackson is the largest of these. Teton Village is home to the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Moose is the small enclave at the southern entrance to Grand Teton National Park that happens to have an amazing wine shop, Dornan’s. Wilson is home to one of the West’s great general stores, Hungry Jack’s. Even if you don’t think you need anything, pop your head in. Kelly is where you can go for the best chances of seeing bison. Calling Moran, an entrance to Grand Teton National Park in the northern part of the valley, a “town” is a bit of an overstatement, but writing that some of the best views of the Tetons are close by isn’t. Enter Grand Teton here, drive a few miles to the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River, and you’ll be facing the famed panorama of the Tetons you’ve no doubt seen in dozens of photos before.

Because the different areas of Jackson have very different personalities, the best way to experience the valley is to move around within it. My two picks for home base? 1) The Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole in Teton Village and 2) Jenny Lake Lodge inside Grand Teton National Park. In an ideal world, you’d have time for three days at each.

The 124 rooms and suites at Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole are among the largest in the valley (the smallest room at the resort is 500 square feet). But making sure you don’t spend too much time indoors are the property’s Base Camp full-service outdoor activity concierges. Locals with intimate familiarity of the valley, Base Campers can schedule all of your activities or make recommendations on where to head on your own. Either of which you’ll appreciate as their help frees you up to enjoy the Westbank Grill – go for the venison loin or fresh Idaho trout – 12,000-square-foot spa, and art collection of more than 2,000 pieces spanning 18th and 19th century European works to late 20th century surrealism. (The property offers a one-hour iPod tour of this collection.)

Some of the valley’s best outdoor hikes are in Teton Village. You can hike the six miles and 4,000-plus feet to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain, but the resort’s new 100-passenger tram saves time and energy. From the top, there are several short trails into meadows covered with wildflowers and home to pudgy marmots. A longer jaunt is the 10 miles from the top of the tram to Marion Lake in Grand Teton National Park and back. Tandem paragliding rides also start at the top of the tram. Just next to the tram’s base is Walk Festival Hall, home to the Grand Teton Music Festival, which plays almost nightly in July and August.

Jenny Lake Lodge, inside Grand Teton National Park and literally at the base of the Tetons, also is surrounded by great hikes. Since lodging prices include horseback rides (as well as breakfast, a five-course dinner and the use of cruiser bicycles), do try that, too. Also, since the lodge is only about an hour from Yellowstone National Park, you could easily spend a day checking in with Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Norris Geyser Basin and the park’s wildlife (expect bison, moose, bears, elk and eagles).

While Jenny Lake Lodge is one of the most sought-after places to stay in the valley, don’t expect over-the-top amenities. Cabins, many of which were built in the 1920s don’t have flat screen TVs and only have a phone if you request one. Jenny Lake has built its reputation on stellar service and simple-yet-luxurious touches such as handmade quilts on top of down comforters and an amazing kitchen. All of which are the perfect things to return to after a day playing in the area.

Booking Information Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole www.fourseasons.com/jacksonhole (307) 732-5000

Jenny Lake Lodge www.gtlc.com (866) 875-8456

tagged in Jackson Hole

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

Theme developed by TouchSize - Premium WordPress Themes and Websites