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Spend any time in Jackson Hole, and you’ll quickly learn that the charming western town is full of people whose lives were changed by the pull of this legendary locale, those who migrated from all corners of the country to get closer to its surrounding mountains and wide-open landscapes. That’s because in the winter Jackson Hole (the name for the valley between the Teton Mountains and the Snake River, which includes the town of Jackson and its namesake resort) is a bona fide skiers’ paradise, full of gorgeous scenery, long runs, and dry, fluffy powder.
And that’s just on the slopes. The rugged western vibe, paired with a food scene that’s surprisingly sophisticated for a mountain town and friendly locals, make Jackson well worth visiting, even sans snow (though winter sports enthusiasts shouldn’t miss a trip during the cold-weather months). Here, an insider’s guide on how to make the most of a winter weekend in Jackson Hole.
Where to Ski
For many visitors to Jackson, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR), one of the best ski resorts in the country, if not the world, is the main event. And the opening of the new Teton Lift in December 2015, which provides access to some dramatic new backcountry terrain as well as three new groomed runs, will only boost JHMR’s esteem.
The resort has a big reputation among those who live and breathe for powder or dream of testing their mettle on the infamous Corbet’s Couloir. But don’t worry if you’re a beginner or intermediate skier; there are plenty of options for mellower runs, too. Stay near on the runs serviced by the Teewinot Quad Chair and Eagle’s Rest lifts out of Teton Village if you’re looking to stay on greens, and continue up the Apres Vous Quad Chair for some fun easier blue runs.
But, while it’s the best known of Jackson-area resorts, JHMR isn’t the only place to ski in Jackson Hole. Snow King Mountain is located literally right in the town and, with full-day lift tickets going for $47 instead of JHMR’s $120-130, is certainly the more affordable option (and kids under 5 ski for free, making it a great choice for families). If you’re looking for a night skiing adventure, this is where you’ll find it—as well as other fun activities like ice climbing and even a winter roller coaster.
Adventures off the Slopes
If skiing isn’t actually your be-all and end-all, don’t worry: Some of Jackson Hole’s best-kept secrets are the adventures to be found off the slopes. Grand Teton National Park grooms trails through the winter that are perfect for both skate and Nordic skiing; it’s a great way to see the park in relative solitude.
Fat biking is one of the fastest growing winter sports in Jackson Hole. Locals love to hop on a bike right in town and tour Snow King’s network of single-track trails, or you can go further afield by signing up for a tour with a company that has the requisite permits to fat bike through Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks.
Spot Some Stunning Wildlife
From bison to pronghorn to moose, Wyoming’s winter wildlife is simply stunning. And going on a wildlife tour through the National Elk Refuge, Grand Teton, or Yellowstone National Park will allow you to get up close and personal with it—and offers a way to still get outside on your rest day while your thighs recover.
Continue the wildlife theme by stopping on your way back to town at the National Wildlife Museum, named by Travel + Leisure as one of America’s best small-town museums. The pieces in the exhibits range from ancient to modern, with works from Andy Warhol to Georgia O’Keefe, but all revolve around a theme that’s near and dear to many outdoor lovers’ hearts: wildlife, and humanity’s connection to it.
The Best Après in Jackson
A ski day isn’t complete until you’ve had a beer afterward and rehashed the recent adventures among friends. Luckily, Jackson Hole’s après scene is nearly as good as its snow. Hot off the slopes, check out The Spur in Teton Village for great drinks and hearty food—or, better yet stay on the slopes and stop by Piste Mountain Bistro at the top of the gondola.
If you’re headed back in town, The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is the quintessential must-visit place to grab a drink in a fun wild-west ambience, including saddles on the barstools and scenes of cowboys (and their revolvers) on the walls. And if you weekend in Jackson Hole stretches into a Tuesday, don’t miss bluegrass night at the Wort Hotel’s Silver Dollar Bar, a favorite among locals.
Where to Get Caffeinated
Skiing is a great excuse to carbo-load. And that’s something Persephone Bakery, located in the town of Jackson, will readily help you with. From cinnamon brioche to morning glory muffins, Peresphone’s pastries are some of the best—especially when they’re washed down with freshly brewed Intelligentsia coffee.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to fuel up slopeside, check out Cafe 6311, located at the base of the Bridger Gondola. The bagel breakfast sandwich will keep you going for hours on end.
Where to Stay
Skiers who want to maximize their time on the mountain will want to stay at Teton Village, located at the base of JHMR, in order to cut out the 12-mile commute from town. The Hostel in Teton Village offers affordable options for both shared and private rooms, with dormitory beds started at $20/night and private rooms at $45. Most other options in the village are much pricier, but for a worthy splurge, check out the LEED-certified Hotel Terra, with rooms starting at $235/night. Go in with friends to split the cost of a suite, which come with two full bathrooms, and you can save on meals by taking advantage of the full kitchen.
Looking to explore more of the area beyond the resort? Consider a stay in the town of Jackson. The Elk Country Inn is a popular affordable option with rooms starting at $98; more upscale, the Wort Hotel has the most history to it, starting at $289/night during ski season. And don’t forget to take a photo under the famous elk antler arches.