Tell all your friends Jackson sucks. Stickers displaying this message are seen on many a bumper in the Teton Valley. Ask any local and they will likely confirm the sentiment.
They may also advise you about the terrible ski terrain, dreadful snow conditions, lack of restaurant options, slim chance of wildlife sightings, and boorish nightlife. Residents may remind you that temperatures frequently plummet below zero and assure you that even Santa loses his jolly verve somewhere near the Teton Pass.
But, before take pity the town folk and start organizing a fundraiser to bring relief to this seemingly blighted community, I advise you to take the five-hour drive from Salt Lake City so you can see the so-called squalid conditions for yourself. What they are selling is, of course, categorically untrue. I’ll tell you the truth—Jackson is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
Locals know it, and they conspire to keep it a secret. The endless array of outdoor pursuits, charming eateries, Western hospitality and country livin’ set amid the dramatic landscape provided by the Teton range make Jackson a must-see and do kind of place.
In the early 1800s, members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition made their way through what is now Jackson Hole. It became a popular place for fur trappers including mountaineering legends Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith, and David Jackson—for whom the area is named. In 1872, Yellowstone became the world’s first national park, and in 1937, valley residents built a ski tow at Teton Pass. In 1939, Snow King Resort became the first ski facility in Wyoming. Today, the area delights with three major ski resorts and backcountry options galore.
The Teton Valley has no shortage of adventures, whether you ski or not. If you do ski or snowboard, hot diggity, are you in for a treat! Jackson Hole Mountain Resort pairs striking views with some of the best terrain in the world. JHMR boasts 2,500 acres with a vertical rise of over 4,100 feet. Fifty percent of the mountain is expert-level, but even if you can’t shred like Travis Rice, you’ll be able to appreciate the intoxicating panoramas and sublimely steep and deep slopes.
Grand Targhee Resort is well worth the short drive from Jackson. Mary’s Nipple is technically in-bounds, but requires some hiking and has a summit elevation of 9,920 feet. Detour here and you’ll get the backcountry benefits without too much hard work and a bonus view of the famous Grand Teton Peak as a backdrop.
If you’re interested in staying close to the slopes, check in at The Snake River Lodge and Spa, nestled in the Teton Village and just minutes away from Grand Teton National Park. Treat yourself to a relaxing retreat and blend a little rejuvenation into your vacation by booking nourishing treatments at the Avanyu Spa.
Jackson is by no means a one-trick pony and any cowboy worth his salt knows skiing certainly isn’t the only game in town. Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge for a truly extraordinary experience. The valley floor abounds with elk herds retreating from the icy mountains. Being whisked away in a sleigh through a vast wintry expanse surrounded by elegant wildlife is unreal. It’s a page right out of Narnia, but without the troublesome reign of the White Witch. Take the opportunity to go dogsledding with Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours. Do it. Racing across the snow with the wind in your hair and a team of the best-bred Alaskan work huskies will make you feel rugged and cool. The pups are fiercely athletic, but sweet and affectionate too. If you take the full-day tour it ends with a rewarding swim at the Granite Hot Springs.
Eco-tours and Wildlife Safaris are available daily through Wildlife Expeditions of Teton Science Schools, Upstream Anglers and Outdoor Adventures and Grand Teton Adventure Company and are a great way to experience the animal kingdom up close. Participants may see moose, elk, eagles, big horn sheep, bison, wolves, coyotes, swans, and deer. The Eco-tour expeditions are fun and educational. They cover diligent environmental stewardship, animal behavior, snow science and other related topics.
For deluxe accommodations in town, stay at the family-owned Lexington Hotel nestled in the heart of Jackson Hole’s historic neighborhood two blocks from the Town Square. The hotel is known for its sustainability and offers freshly-baked cookies every afternoon and ski lockers, along with many other amenities to make your stay splendid.
Jackson has managed to keep its Old West roots while still cultivating the rustic charm of an upscale ski village. You’ll have your choice of specialty steakhouses, like the Gun Barrel Steak and Game House, where Bison is on the menu, as well as many other options for finely-prepared fare from Mexican to Thai. Teton Thai has a yummy Panang Salmon dish and an inspiring Padgar Pow Duck entrée. The Inferno Roll at Nikai Sushi and Wild Game Chili at the Snake River Brewing Co. will knock your boots off, but it’s not all cowboy grub in these parts, there are a few vegetarian-friendly and organic cafés too. The Lotus Café has gluten-free and vegan options. The Mediterranean Breakfast Sandwich is highly recommended.
During your visit, shop the boutique galleries around the town square, and be sure to stop by the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar for saloon drafts and a hootin’ hollerin’ good time. If you’re in the mood for some live music and intriguing atmosphere visit the Mangy Moose in Teton Village for après ski appetizers and ales.
Jackson only sucks if you don’t like fun, happiness, relaxation, puppies, adventure, beauty, and nature. Don’t just take my word for it though, giddy-up and plan a trip there so you can experience the degree to which it does not suck for yourself.
Where to Stay
Lexington at Jackson Hole Hotel and Suites 285 North Cache Drive, Jackson, WY 888-771-2648, lexingtonhoteljacksonhole.com
Snake River Lodge and Spa 7710 Granite Loop Road, Teton Village, WY 866-975-7625, snakeriverlodge.rockresorts.com
Where to Play
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Teton Village, WY 307-733-2292, jacksonhole.com
Grand Targhee Resort Alta, WY 307-353-2300, grandtarghee.com
National Elk Refuge Sleigh Rides Jackson, WY 307-733-0277, bart5.com
Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours Jackson, WY 307-733-7388, jhsleddog.com
Wildlife Expeditions of Teton Science Schools Jackson, WY 307-733-2623, wildlifeexpeditions.org
Upstream Anglers & Outdoor Adventures – Wildlife Tours Jackson, WY 307-690-3183, upstreamanglers.com
Where to Eat
Teton Thai Teton Village, WY 307-733-0022, tetonthai.com
Nikai Sush 225 North Cache, Jackson, WY 307-734-6490, nikaisushi.com
Snake River Brewery 265 South Millward, Jackson, WY 307-739-2337, snakeriverbrewing.com
Gun Barrel Steak and Game House 862 West Broadway, Jackson, WY 307-733-3287, gunbarrel.com
Lotus Café 145 North Glenwood Street, Jackson, WY 307-734-0882, tetonlotuscafe.com
Mangy Moose Teton Village, WY 307-733-4913, mangymoose.com