National Geographic's World Best Ski Towns
The giant of American skiing—if your dreams are filled with big mountains and steep, powder-smothered slopes, Jackson Hole is the promised land.
Photograph by David J. Swift, The New York Times/Redux
Best For: Advanced skiers and riders looking for test pieces and line dancing
The giant of American skiing—if your dreams are filled with big mountains and steep, powder-smothered slopes, Jackson Hole is the promised land. The town of Jackson, a 12-mile drive from the ski area, sits in a remote, high valley in northwestern Wyoming in the shadow of the mighty Teton Range and just south of Yellowstone National Park. From its wooden sidewalks and cowboy bars to its restaurants that sling unnecessarily large slabs of red meat, the town of just over 9,500 embraces its Wild West heritage. Much like Banff, Alberta, winter is actually the off-season in this town, so good ski-season deals on lodging abound.
One of the birthplaces of extreme skiing in the U.S., mighty Jackson Hole Resort does offer a few beginner runs, and intermediates will find a smattering of scenic groomed cruisers, but experts are the ones who’ll find their happy place. Advanced skiers and snowboarders will want to jump directly on the 100-person winter tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, at which point you’re looking at a leg-melting 4,139 feet of vertical drop to the base area, which is not only skiable in one sustained gulp, but offers a dizzying variety of chutes, bowls, glades, and cliff drops to get there. Even beginners should take a round-trip on the tram—from which you may spot experts plummeting into the legendary Corbet’s Couloir—for the top-of-the-world views from the summit.
If the 2,500 acres of intense in-bounds terrain doesn’t sate you, you can pass through the resort’s gates into another 3,000 acres of sidecountry powder (the resort’s Mountain Sports School offers excellent guides for backcountry neophytes).
Ask a Local
Jess McMillan grew up ski racing at Jackson Hole and is now a professional skier and the 2007 IFSA World Tour Champion. Here are her recommendations.
Budget: The Hostel in Teton Village (at the base of the mountain)
Swank: Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa
Cheap: The cheapest good food is the Village Cafe in Teton Village. They have great pre-made breakfast burritos that you eat in tramline while waiting for the mountain to open, as well as to-die-for baked goods. The pizza is great. The Thai chicken burrito for lunch is a favorite.
Gourmet: Couloir is a must do while you’re in Jackson. It’s really cool to ride the gondola to dinner, and the food is incredible.
Best After-Ski Party Spot
Mangy Moose Restaurant and Saloon
Best Rest-Day Activity
Elk Refuge sleigh rides are a must—it’s so cool to be so close to the elk out on the refuge.
Jackson’s Classic Ski Run
“My favorite ski run is Alta 1. It is the quintessential steep chute in Jackson,” says McMillan. “For something a little less demanding, the classic run is Rendezvous Bowl to the Hobacks. It doesn't get much better than the 2,500 vert of wide open pow fields of the Hobaks"
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