America’s biggest challenge
Until the mid-80s, few people had heard of the cult ski area of Jackson Hole. Tucked into the top left-hand corner of Wyoming, with a Teton mountain range backdrop, it is now one of North America’s foremost resorts.
While originally famed for its tough terrain, these days Jackson Hole has plenty of facilities, lifts and terrain aimed at intermediates, families and beginners.
Inside the resort . . .
The resort’s valley, named after the Virginian trapper David Edward Jackson, runs from Hoback Junction in the south to Jackson Lake and Togwotee Pass in the north. It’s remote and wild, with a rich variety of wildlife (including elk, moose, coyotes, the odd wolf and even bald eagles).
When Paul McCollister opened the ski area in 1965, he named it Jackson Hole – now Jackson Hole Mountain Resort – but it’s usually referred to by skiers and snowboarders simply as Jackson. Confusingly, there’s also a cowboy town named Jackson, 12 miles to the south-east.
The ski area’s resort, known as Teton Village, is a horseshoe-shaped community of shops, lodgings and resort admin offices planted snugly at the base of the ski area, alongside the resort’s iconic red Aerial Tram (the American name for a cable car) – where you might occasionally see a wandering moose – and the Bridger Gondola. The USA has very few cable cars, and the original tram was installed by resort founder Paul McCollister to help produce a European atmosphere.
You can get to pretty much everywhere on foot in Teton Village and there are enough restaurants to enable you to try a different one each night. The nearby town of Jackson has an authentic cowboy feel, is more lively and boasts some fine dining choices too.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is made up of two mountains. Rendezvous provides most of the powderkeg runs, while Apres Vous has more accessible slopes. While Jackson Hole is famed as an expert resort, intermediates are catered for with easier terrain including blue runs, mainly accessed by the Sweetwater gondola and the Teton and Casper chairlifts.
Jackson Hole also has appeal for beginners, including a dedicated area for beginners accessible from the Solitude Station learning centre at the mid-station of the Sweetwater gondola, which houses a ski school, rental shop and restaurants.
On the slopes . . .
Navigate Jackson Holes’s ski area with our insider’s knowledge of the local slopes and beyond, on and off piste, ski schools and terrain parks.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s ski area is made up of two mountains. Rendezvous provides most of the powderkeg runs, while Apres Vous has more accessible slopes. Altogether (but not counting the extensive backcountry) the two mountains share 2,500 acres of in-bounds terrain, with a vertical drop of 1,260m – one of the biggest in the USA.
Jackson Hole’s trail map has 133 marked runs – 50 per cent are expert, 40 per cent intermediate and 10 per cent beginner. A good rule of thumb is that skiers and snowboarders who want the most challenging runs (including the legendary Corbet’s Couloir, even to just take a look over the edge) should concentrate on the Tram to access Rendezvous mountain. Novices and intermediates are better off using the Sweetwater gondola to enjoy the exhilarating runs on Apres Vous mountain.
This doesn’t mean to say experts won’t enjoy plenty of challenging terrain on Apres Vous, or that there’s nothing on Rendezvous for confident intermediates. They may be tempted – if not by Corbet’s itself – by Jackson’s signature chutes, which are very doable in good snow conditions. The Cirque, on the shoulder between Rendezvous and Apres Vous and reached via the Tensleep Bowl, is a good place to start, with fairly steep descents like Snagtree, Downhill and Broadway. Nearby are Paint Brush, Tower Three Chute and the Expert Chutes, which will put experts to the test.
Rendezvous Mountain is also the gateway to the Hobacks, a long and extensive area devoted to ungroomed terrain. Apart from magnificent hike-to terrain at the foot of Cody Peak, outside the ski area, the Hobacks used to be the pièce de résistance – until in 1999 the resort took the impressive decision to open up vast amounts of backcountry through gated entrances spread along the resort’s boundary.
The open backcountry gate system accesses more than 3,000 acres, mainly in Bridger-Teton National Forest (accessed through Rendezvous Bowl) and also in Grand Teton National Park. Although Jackson Hole has just 13 lifts in-bounds, they serve a huge variety of terrain. The resort’s guiding service is a good option for advanced skiers and riders who wish to discover untracked slopes, secret runs, and the best snow conditions Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has to offer.
Although the resort has a reputation for challenging slopes, there are plenty of easy options too, and the resort is determined to give the slopes a more intermediate appeal. Beginner and intermediate trails make up half of the terrain, and the resort claims its non-advanced/expert terrain acreage – 1,250 acres – is larger than many ski resorts’ total coverage.
The four-person Eagles Rest chairlift provides access to the dedicated area for beginners. It’s also accessible from the Solitude Station learning centre at the mid-station of the Sweetwater gondola, which houses a ski school, rental shop and restaurants.
There are four Burton Stash terrain parks for beginners through to advanced, plus two other terrain parks. These are spread across Apres Vous mountain. Other activities available around Jackson Hole Mountain Resort include snowmobiling, cross-country trails, heliskiing, tubing and dog sledding.
Who should go?
While there are options for beginners and intermediates Jackson Hole Mountain Resort does a great job of projecting a bravado image, enhanced by pictures of daredevils jumping into the resort’s signature run, Corbet’s Couloir. For the slightly less derring-do, there are also a huge amount of easier-to-access steep and challenging slopes. Those in search of a ski holiday across the pond with a real Wild West feel this is one of the best resorts, where the streets in the town of Jackson are lined with wooden sidewalks, cowboy saloons and pool halls.
Know before you go . . .
International travellers going to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are now subject to enhanced security requirements. Online completion and approval of ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), along with payment of the fee, is mandatory ahead of travel for all Visa Waiver Programme travellers. For full details, be sure to go to the official website at esta.cbp.dhs.gov
British Consulate General in San Francisco: +1 415 617 1300; 1 Sansome St Suite 850, San Francisco, CA 94104
Emergnecy services: dial 911
Tourist office: See jacksonhole.com, the website for the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Tourist Board, or use the JH Insider app for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details and local event listings. Pick up maps, leaflets and other information from the office in the centre of Teton Village at the base station of the tram.
Currency: The USA uses the dollar ($). Notes/bills look similar, and are in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100
Telephone code: To phone the UK, dial 011 44 and then the number – but drop the ‘0’
Time difference: -7 hours
Taxis expect a 10-15 per cent tip; restaurants expect 15-20 per cent on the total before local tax (6.25 per cent). A few restaurants build in a 20 per cent gratuity; always check your bill.