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Wonderful Wyoming

A guide to skiing Jackson Hole

Keri Wiginton Special to the American-Statesman
Most of the terrain at Jackson Hole is geared toward intermediate or advanced skiers, so make sure you check the difficulty level before heading up a lift. [Contributed by Keri Wiginton]

Jackson Hole, a ski resort nestled in Wyoming’s Teton Range, has always been on my ski bucket list. Well, sort of. It’s a pretty expensive place to stay, and its popularity with the rich and famous — Kim and Kanye even have a second home there — has always been a bit of a turnoff for me. But the Ikon Pass offers five days at Jackson Hole this season. So after my husband and I spent a few days skiing Big Sky, Mont., we drove three hours south to check out some of Wyoming’s best skiing.

We decided to save some money and stay in Jackson, a town 20 minutes from the resort with a full grocery store, plenty of restaurants and a Starbucks. On the way in, we saw signs for Grand Teton National Park — which is only 4 miles away from the resort — and groups were taking sleigh rides through the National Elk Refuge. We didn’t get up close and personal with the elk, but rides are $25. Blankets provided.

Since we were only interested in shredding, we took a rain check on other tourist sites. But whether you’re an Ikon Pass holder or you just want to know more about Jackson Hole, here’s what we thought about our trip.

The mountain

Teton Village is where you’ll find Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. There are 2,500 inbound skiable acres and another 3,000 for experts who want to explore the backcountry. While the mountain is mostly intermediate and advanced terrain, about 10 percent of the runs are geared toward beginners.

The skiing itself was great, but the crowds were a little frustrating. My husband and I had just experienced the bliss of practically no lift lines at Big Sky, but we were the ones who chose to visit Jackson Hole over the Christmas holiday, some of the busiest ski days of the year, I overheard an instructor say. 

While the clouds and snow made the visibility less than stellar for our two-day trip, I always welcome fresh powder. It definitely made carving through the Rendezvous Bowl off the top of Rendezvous Mountain — the highest peak at the resort — a lot more fun. To get to the bowl, we waited in line for about 20 minutes to ride the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram, which takes 100 people up to 10,450 feet in nine minutes. You’re supposed to get epic views of the Tetons and Snake River Valley at the top, but it was snowing so hard that I couldn’t see farther than a few feet in front of me. But that probably worked in my favor; I would have been terrified if I could have seen how steep the terrain actually was. (Note: Only advanced skiers and snowboarders should take the tram.)

Where we stayed

While we prefer to grab our gear and walk to the lifts, sleeping at the slopes at Jackson Hole was well out of our price range. My husband reserved us a few nights at the Mountain Modern Motel in nearby Jackson. Our decision was based mostly on price — cost varies from $120 to $190 — but they also conveniently offer a free shuttle to and from the resort. Plus, the rooms come with kitchenettes and looked like they catered to skiers and snowboarders.  

While Mountain Modern’s website looked very hip, we assumed the room would look nothing like their curated pictures. But we were completely wrong. It was like REI and Anthropologie collaborated to design a motel room for people who love snow sports. Not only was the decor on point — the wallpaper was Grand Teton-inspired — but there were plenty of shelves to lay out gear and a dedicated space for my skis and my husband’s snowboard.

It clearly looked like they expected guests to bring their own food, so the room was equipped with a microwave, mini-fridge and plenty of space for groceries. You can ask for plates, bowls and utensils at the front desk and wash dishes with the sponge, soap and dish towel provided next to the sink, which looked more like it should be in a renovated farmhouse than a motel. There were also four stylish red mugs and a Keurig.

If you don’t stay at the Mountain Modern — which provides complimentary coffee and breakfast sandwiches to fuel your ski day — many of the hotels and motels offer shuttle service to the slopes. But you can also take public transportation to the resort. The START bus costs $3, but you can pay through an app.

How to get there

The easiest way to get to Jackson Hole is to fly into Jackson Airport, which has direct flights from 12 U.S. cities, including Dallas and Houston. To get from the airport, which is actually located in Grand Teton National Park, just rent a car or take a taxi to wherever you’re staying. The START bus can shuttle you around Jackson as well as to and from Teton Village if you don’t have your own vehicle. 

Will we go again?

If we renew our Ikon Pass next year — and Jackson Hole is still on it — we’ll definitely consider paying the resort another visit. There’s no doubt we’ll stay at Mountain Modern again, but we’ll probably skip coming over the holidays. And while we spent most of our time on the mountain, maybe next time we’ll explore more of Jackson. Maybe we’ll stop by the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Our bus driver said everyone loves it.

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