Growing up on the east coast Jackson Hole was like an R rated movie; all of my friends had heard about how mind blowing it was, but none of us had actually seen it. We would pass along tales of the long snow filled runs, and the legendary Corbet’s Couloir. We never considered Jackson Hole’s rich history, or how magical Teton National Park is. Now that I have lived in Jackson for three seasons I am amazed at how many activities there are in the winter, with so many to choose from, I tried to narrow it down to the best of the best.
Yellowstone National Park is an hour drive from downtown Jackson, and is a must see. A little known secret is that winter is the time to go. With the park’s roads unplowed the only access is via guided snowmobile or snowcoach (think 15 passenger van, groomer combo). This limits the number of visitors in the often overcrowded park. When John Colter, the first European descendant to see Yellowstone, attempted to describe the bizarre scene he had stumbled upon, the best he could do is write that he may have encountered the entrance to hell. With many Bison nestled in the deep snow, only broken by multicolored pools of boiling water, his initial impression was spot on. There are a couple options for snowmobile tours in Yellowstone; you can do a geyser focused tour, eating lunch by Old Faithful, with hardly anyone around, and checking out some of the other lesser known geysers. You can also venture to Yellowstone Grand Canyon, which in my opinion is improved on with pillows of snow covering the canyon walls.
If you have flown into Jackson, you have seen the National Elk Refuge, it is the 25,000 acre mass of land on your left as you drive in. In the winter the Elk Refuge is home to over 7,500 Elk (locally known as wapiti), and 47 other mammal species, including Bighorn Sheep, and the occasional Wolf. The Refuge offers sleigh rides to check out the Elk in the winter, and the experience is amazing. Visitors find themselves feet away from massive Bull Elk, as they travel across the barren landscape. The tour is only about an hour long and tours run from 9am to 4pm, so it can easily be combined with a half day of skiing. make sure to wear plenty of layers if you go on the tour, as cold winds almost always blow across the open plain.
Although the drive along WY191, the road that bisects Grand Teton National Park, provides amazing views of the great mountain range, there is no way to beat the views from the park. A short snowshoe, or nordic ski will find you beyond Bradley or Taggert lake amongst the famous Cathedral group of the tetons. Nordic skis can be rented at Skinny Skis, and snowshoes can be found at the Teton Sports Club. If navigating the network of winter pathways spread throughout Grand Teton National Park worries you, there are a couple of guiding outfits that will show you all of the secret spots. Hole Hike is one of the best outfits, and trips can be reserved at http://www.holehike.com/.
Even if skiing is your passion, don’t miss out on the many other options Jackson Hole has to offer, while there is a lifetime of skiing here, there is also a lifetime of other activities. If you’re unsure of what the best options are, feel free to ask you Ski Butler, and we will be happy to guide you in the right direction.