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Big snow and an uber-luxe cowboy townBig snow and an uber-luxe cowboy town

Winter in Jackson Hole, WyomingWinter in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Are there any mountains in America more beautiful than the Tetons? Rising dramatically above Wyoming's Jackson Hole, the jagged peaks of this youngest offshoot of the Rockies somehow make everything here more special. Whether you’re skiing, dining, shopping, or surrounded by thousands of elk, your eyes are repeatedly drawn to the unmistakable forms of Grand Teton, Mount Moran, and the rest of the Tetons. This year, fly to beautiful Jackson Hole and get a head start on winter fun.

  • The jagged Teton Mountains rise abruptly on the west side of Jackson Hole and are crowned by 13,770-foot Grand Teton. Photo courtesy Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.
  • Many locals know you can “skin the King” and ski all day for just $10. Photo courtesy Snow King Mountain.
  • The Cowboy Coaster takes riders 456 feet up Snow King Mountain before rocketing them down for nearly a mile through twists and turns as high as four stories. Photo courtesy Snow King Mountain.
  • King Tubes has snow tubes, three smooth groomed lanes, and a rope tow to pull you and your snow tube up the hill. Photo courtesy Snow King Mountain.
  • The Hotel Jackson is a luxury boutique hotel just steps away from Jackson Town Square. Photo courtesy Hotel Jackson.
  • The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and iconic elk antler arch are both at the Jackson Town Square. Photo courtesy Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.
  • The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers a wide range of runs for all skill levels. Photo courtesy JHMR.
  • The Western-themed Snake River Lodge & Spa is in Teton Village, near the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Photo courtesy Snake River Lodge & Spa.
  • The luxurious Four Seasons Jackson Hole is a true ski-in, ski-out lodge in Teton Village. Photo courtesy Four Seasons Jackson Hole.
  • Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride into the National Elk Refuge to get a close look at these magnificent ungulates. Photo courtesy Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.
  • A pair of bull elk spar inside the National Elk Refuge. Photo by Lori Iverson, USFWS.
  • Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are frequent visitors to the National Elk Refuge. Photo by Ann Hough, USFWS.
  • Look for trumpeter swans on Flat Creek in the National Elk Refuge. The heaviest living birds native to North America and the world’s largest species of waterfowl, trumpeter swans can have a wingspan in excess of 10 feet. By 1933, fewer than 70 wild trumpeters were known to exist until a population of several thousand was discovered in Alaska. After careful reintroduction, the species has rebounded and now numbers nearly 50,000. Photo by Mike Nordell, USFWS.
  • A girl thanks the horses for her sleigh ride into the National Elk Refuge. Photo courtesy JHMR.
  • Five bronze elk stand in front of the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Designed to blend into its surroundings, the building is perched high above Jackson Hole. Photo courtesy National Museum of Wildlife Art.

The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort often has more than 10 feet of snow before Thanksgiving, so you’ll enjoy great skiing earlier than at many other resorts, plus, they offer a variety of early winter specials. Jackson abounds with great restaurants, nightlife, shopping, and a world-class museum. What are you waiting for?

The Jackson Hole Airport, which lies seven miles north of the town of Jackson, was established in the 1930s and is entirely contained within Grand Teton National Park, so a noise curfew is in effect. Study the airport’s recommended arrival and departure procedures and keep in mind that several commercial airlines operate at the airport.

You’ll enjoy great Teton views and fine dining at the Granary Restaurant, which overlooks the valley. Photo courtesy Spring Creek Lodge.

Jackson Hole has two ski areas, for double the fun. Snow King Mountain, Wyoming’s first ski resort, sits right at the southern edge of Jackson, earning it the nickname “Town Hill.” Snow King offers three lifts and 32 runs on 400 acres plus Jackson Hole’s only night skiing/snowboarding. You’ll also find two terrain parks, a tubing area, and the Cowboy Coaster, a thrilling combination of a bobsled and roller coaster that zips and twists you through nearly a mile of loops, curves, and hairpin turns. Stay at Hotel Jackson, the valley’s newest luxury boutique hotel, just one block from Jackson Town Square. Pick up top-notch outdoor clothing from local brand Stio, shop for authentic cowboy duds at Stone’s Mercantile, or take home a gold-and-diamond Teton necklace from Hines Goldsmiths.

You can dine at FIGS inside Hotel Jackson or try downtown’s Gather Restaurant and Bar. Just don’t miss Jackson’s landmark watering hole, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, known for Western dancing and entertainment. Carnivores go for the Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse, downstairs. The Granary Restaurant sits 1,000 feet above Jackson within a wildlife sanctuary at Spring Creek Ranch. Dine here for panoramic views and a seasonal menu of game, fish, chicken, and pasta dishes. Spring Creek Ranch also offers inn rooms, townhomes, and luxurious mountain villas.

Robert Bateman’s great 1997 painting, “Chief,” is one of many important wildlife paintings on display at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole. Gift of Birgit & Robert Bateman, photo courtesy National Museum of Wildlife Art.

Your other ski/resort option is the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, in Teton Village, at the southern end of the Teton Mountains. Twelve miles northwest of Jackson, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers summer and winter activities on more than 2,500 acres and runs for all levels, from beginner to expert. Eight chairlifts, two gondolas, and a tram swiftly propel skiers and boarders around the slopes, half-pipe, and two terrain parks. In Teton Village, Snake River Lodge and Spa can accommodate couples or large families. The décor is Western-rustic, yet modern in function and convenience. Relax in the spa, play in the pools, and enjoy classic American fare with great views at the Gamefish restaurant. Want to go all-out? Choose the AAA Five Diamond-rated Four Seasons Jackson Hole. It’s right at the ski area and offers every luxury including a spa, fine restaurants, and astronomers and naturalists on staff.

Why naturalists? Because the valley teems with wildlife, from bear and moose in summer to elk in winter. Jackson Hole gets its name from Davey Jackson, a “mountain man” who trapped beaver in the valley in the early 1800s. But a century later, the growth of Jackson blocked an ancient elk migration route and in 1912, the U.S. Biological Survey Elk Refuge (now the National Elk Refuge) was created just north of town to save elk trapped and starving in the valley’s deep snows. Each winter more than 5,000 elk arrive to feed on hay; see them up close via horse-drawn sleigh. You may also see bison, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, or wolves.

If you missed the bison or wolves you can find those and many more animals at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which displays the highest quality wildlife art from North America and around the world. The beautiful building is perched on a cliff above the elk refuge—there’s a new restaurant here too. We never visit Jackson Hole or Grand Teton National Park without stopping in to ogle thousands of remarkable paintings, sculptures, photographs, and illustrations in this museum. Mostly though, we love ogling those gorgeous Grand Teton mountains; they keep us coming back again and again!

The Tetons rise just five nautical miles west of Jackson Hole Airport. Photo courtesy Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.

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Crista Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to aopadestinations@gmail.com.
Topics: US Travel

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