A History of Skiing in The Tetons

In 1965 Jackson Hole Mountain Resort officially opened for the 196566 winter season, and Jackson Hole started its journey to become one of the most iconic ski towns in the world. Over the course of Jackson Hole’s now 50 continuous years of servicing skiers seeking to try some of the most difficult terrain in North America, the resort and the Jackson Hole area have provided some of the most influential moments in skiing history. 

In 1965 the Tetons were recognized as more than just a beautiful mountain range, the steep continuous fall line was determined as the perfect place for a ski area. Initially there were just two double chairs offering service to Apre Vous Mountain, the smaller northern mountain accessed at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The following summer the classic Big Red Tram was opened to access Rendezvous Mountain. As olympian Pepi Stiegler made the resort his home Jackson Hole was immediately recognized as the resort to test your metal on the ski slopes.

One of the most significant and influential moments in Jackson Hole’s history was the fabled clash between the Jackson Hole Air Force (named so due to their love of big air) and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and the resulting opening to out of bounds terrain. The Jackson Hole Air Force was a group of the best and most daring skiers in Jackson, the group was created to gather a collective group of the best out of bounds terrain. As the resort took notice of these skiers breaking the resort’s rules, the concern for unsuspecting guests following the tracks into dangerous terrain became of utmost importance. The resort began cracking down, the climax of these events was the ban of legendary skier Doug Coombs. It was decided that the current plan of punishing skiers for ducking ropes was unsustainable, and the resort searched for another plan. Working with the National Forest, whom Resort leases the land their slopes are on from, trailblazing the path for many other western resorts, Jackson Hole opened their gates to the most expansive backcountry terrain in America.

Perhaps the most significant influential moment in Jackson Hole skiing history did not occur at the resort, but instead in Grand Teton National Park. Although many had climbed the Grand Teton, it was widely regarded as unskiable. Bill Briggs thought otherwise, and in June of 1971 he sought to prove everyone wrong. Along with a support crew, Briggs pushed to the summit of the Grand Teton. His support crew deemed the ascent to dangerous at the base of the Stettner Couloir and Briggs continued the ascent solo. Upon his return to town no one believed him, and with his support crew halting well before the summit, it appeared as though his claims were unfounded. Briggs went up in an airplane, and the resulting photo is one of the most iconic in skiing history, and placed him as the father of Extreme Skiing in North America.

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