What’s new and improved in winter sports mecca Jackson Hole
- Last Updated: 10:52 PM, February 29, 2012
- Posted: 2:09 PM, February 27, 2012
One thing you should know before booking your ski vacation in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole: This is one tough mountain. (It’s actually two mountains, with the deceptively sweet names Apres Vous and Rendezvous.)
But don’t take my word for it: A quick glance at the trail map shows a tangle of black and blue lines skittering along the mountain face. (You’ll need to squint to find the few scribbles of green at the base.) And, even the blue trails, which make up 40 percent of the ski area, can defy the intermediate skier (many of the trails are designated double-blue, or “more difficult”).
Experts, though, will have a field day at Jackson Hole, where half of its 116 trails are black or double-black, and its stats read like a daredevil’s dream: the 4,139-foot vertical drop (unrivaled in the US) and the free-fall of 25 feet, landing on a 50-degree slope, in Corbet’s Couloir, to name just two.
Such challenging terrain is what drew experienced snowboarder Angelo Todaro from Weehawken, NJ, to Jackson Hole for a long weekend. “It’s a mountain I have always wanted to ride,” he explains, “since it’s known for its steep terrain and famous powder days.”
There was no such powder on that particular weekend, so Todaro stayed on the groomed runs, but in his 2-plus days on the mountain, he says, “we didn’t get bored with the trail options.”
Taking advantage of the variety of trails has gotten easier and faster of late, with the addition of the Aerial Tram, which hauls 100 passengers at a time up to the summit of Rendezvous, and new lifts that provide better access to the mid and upper areas of the mountain. One is the brand-new double-chair Marmot lift; next year, a high-speed four-passenger lift will replace the aging Casper triple chair. What it means to you: a wider dispersal of people across the mountain, and far fewer folks on any given trail. At times, you may even find yourself schussing solo, soaking up the spectacular Teton views.
And if your idea of fun is sliding on, leaping over and careening off of various obstacles while strapped to a board, Jackson Hole’s Stash parks beckon. The mountain’s five terrain-like parks, which are built entirely from organic materials like fallen trees and rocks, opened in 2010, though features are regularly added. Daring freestylers like to talk about how they’ve “banged the gong” (jumped to hit the gong hanging from a tree with a ski tip or board), or “planted on the rollercoaster” (done a handstand on a huge wood wall).
Off the slopes, you’ll find many new spots in and around Teton Village. Opened in late November, Wool & Whiskey, a well curated men’s clothing boutique stocking rugged, understated labels, wouldn’t look out of place in Williamsburg. But the real draw is the tiny bar at the back that lists its whiskey offerings — Blanton’s and Basil Hayden’s among them — in Field Notes memo books. Don’t bother ordering a Manhattan; sidle up for a simple, manly shot of the brown stuff.
On the restaurant front, locals-favorite Teton Thai bid farewell to its funky, cramped location near Jackson’s Town Square and set up shop last winter in the new Apres Vous development, a few minutes walk from the village. The place is run by a young couple, Sam Johnson and his wife, Suchada, a Thai native who mans the kitchen, turning out wonderfully authentic curries. Even though it’s now a proper-sized restaurant, expect long waits for dinner.
So, are you ready to book your trip? March is a great time to visit: Not only do the days get longer (and warmer!), Teton Village launches a free outdoor concert series, Music Under the Tram, every Saturday afternoon for locals and visitors to congregate après ski.
At the end of the month, the Jackson Hole Mountain Festival comes to town, with skiing and snowboarding competitions, the Pole Pedal Paddle event (a three-part race that includes downhill skiing, a bike race and a float down the Snake River), plus live music and a fireworks extravaganza. The ski season runs through April 8.
GO: There are no direct flights to Jackson Hole from NYC; connect through Denver (United/Continental) or Dallas (American). Flights from $449 RT.
STAY: The ski-in/ski-out Four Seasons Resort has comfortable, lodge-style rooms. Start your day with huckleberry pancakes at the hotel’s Westbank Grill; finish with a restorative après-ski massage at the spa. (Three-night ski package with daily lift tix from $479/night; fourseasons.com/jacksonhole)
You’re never without incredible, panoramic views of the Tetons at the Amangani resort, perched high on a butte overlooking Snake River Valley. Stay here if only to experience swimming in the 115-foot-long heated outdoor pool alongside those awesome peaks. (From $725; amanresorts.com/amangani)
MORE INFO: jacksonhole.com