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Destination of the Week: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

by on January 10, 2014 · 9 comments

in Destination of the Week, TPG Contributors

With temperatures finally rising to tolerable levels and a one of the best snow packs in years in North America, it’s time to strap on your skies and buy those lift tickets. For today’s Destination of the Week, TPG Contributor Casey Hatfield-Chiotti takes us to one of her favorite US ski spots, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Founded in the 19th century by two mountain men who trapped beavers for a living, this town of about 9,500 souls has remained remarkably close to its roots with a laid-back attitude and Wild West ambiance. However, don’t be fooled, Teton County is one of the wealthiest counties in the country and there’s plenty of sophistication to go along with the cowboy-town vibe.

The area is known for expert-level slopes. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons.

The area is known for expert-level slopes. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons.

Located near both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, Jackson Hole is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and has activities year round. During the winter visitors come for the world class skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, named the #1 Overall Resort in North America by Ski Magazine for 2014. In the summer, the geysers at Yellowstone National Park, whitewater rafting and the Jackson Hole Rodeo are big draws. The fall brings the arts festival and the acclaimed Wildlife Film Festival. Whether you’re more comfortable in cowboy boots or Prada, there’s something for everyone in Jackson Hole.

Jackson Hole is working to put in more basic trails for less advanced skiers. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons.

Jackson Hole is working to put in more basic trails for less advanced skiers. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons.

WHAT TO DO

While it’s been a lackluster year so far for snow in the West, Jackson has gotten over 13 feet – more than any other resort in the Rocky Mountains. With a vertical drop of about 4,140 feet Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is known for steep, challenging terrain with half of the runs considered “Expert.” However, the Mountain has made an effort to offer more intermediate runs off of Apres-Vous Mountain and from the Bridger Gondola Summit. Jackson Hole also offers a variety of adult ski-camps for those who want to hone their skills including the intermediate level Elevate Women’s Camp with professional skiers Jess McMillan and Crystal Wright January 13-17 and March 3-7, and four Steep and Deep Camps for more advanced male and female skiers.

Make new antlered friends at the Elk Preserve. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons.

Make new antlered friends at the Elk Preserve. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons.

Another great winter activity in Jackson Hole is a visit to the National Elk Refuge just north of town. From mid-December through early April, horse-drawn sleigh rides can be arranged and allow you to get up close with thousands of elk. Overlooking the refuge, the National Museum of Wildlife Art houses a world-class collection of American art from the 19th and 20th centuries.

A recent day out on the trails. Photo by Casey Hatfield-Chiotti.

A recent day out on the trails. Photo by Casey Hatfield-Chiotti.

Every February locals look forward to Winterfest a two-week long celebration that includes snow sculpting, ski races, and skijouring—an extreme sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse through a race course and over jumps.

Check out the town's famous antler arch.

Check out the town’s famous antler arch.

Jackson Hole’s historic town square is worth a peek for its iconic arches, each made of 2,000 elk antlers. The streets that surround the square are lined with art galleries and shops including MADE, a jewelry and home furnishings store, fashion boutique Altitude, and Terra, a clothing store that stocks Milly, Trina Turk and Nanette Lepore. For menswear, head to Teton Village’s Wool & Whiskey, a clothing store that also has a fully stocked whiskey bar. Enjoy Jameson on the rocks while perusing brands like Steven Alan, Woolrich, and Danner in the old west saloon style space.

Jackson has some great live music venues including the famed Mangy Moose in Teton Village, a local favorite, and the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in downtown Jackson, a landmark watering hole with saddle barstools and plenty of knotted wood.

WHERE TO EAT

For après ski don’t miss newly opened Spur Restaurant and Bar in Teton Mountain Lodge whose cozy yet modern atmosphere and decadent dishes like dry aged buffalo sliders are exactly what you want after a day on the hill.

Head to the new Spur for perfect fireside apres-ski treats. Photo courtesy of Teton Mountain Lodge.

Head to the new Spur for perfect fireside apres-ski treats. Photo courtesy of Teton Mountain Lodge.

Local Restaurant and Bar is a contemporary take on the traditional Jackson Hole steakhouse and serves dishes like coffee rubbed seared elk medallions and buffalo tartare.  The lively restaurant with wood paneled walls and iron chandeliers is also a popular happy hour destination and features half off wine, beer and cocktails from 4-6 every day along with one of Jackson’s best burgers for just $8.

The seared elk medallions are a favorite at Local.

The seared elk medallions are a favorite at Local.

The Snake River Grill is a Jackson Hole landmark and churns out dishes like chicken under a brick and goose leg confit out of a woodburning oven. Don’t forget to put in your order for the decadent chocolate soufflé for dessert – it takes 25 minutes, but is well worth the wait.

Snake River Grill is a local landmark.

Snake River Grill is a local landmark.

At the summit of the Bridger Gondola at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is Couloir, one of the best on-mountain restaurants in the country. Make reservations for a decadent lunch of poutine with Idaho potatoes and mushroom gravy and an open faced meatloaf sandwich or ride the gondola up for dinner in the evening. Try to make reservations at the Chef’s Table where you’ll dine on a seasonal four-course tasting menu in the restaurant’s kitchen.

The food is almost as good as the spectacular views from mountaintop Couloir.

The food is almost as good as the spectacular views from mountaintop Couloir.

The craft cocktail craze has come to Jackson Hole with The Rose, a speakeasy-style bar filled with diamond tuft back booths and chandeliers. Drinks like the Shady Business whiskey, lemon, maple, Fernet Branca and mint will warm you on a cold Jackson night.

GETTING THERE

The only commercial airport in the US located in a national park, the Jackson Hole Airport features the stunning Teton Mountain range as a backdrop and is just 7 miles north of downtown Jackson.

Jackson Hole's airport is the only one in the US located in a national park.

Jackson Hole’s airport is the only one in the US located in a national park.

There are now non-stop flights from 12 major cities. Direct air service has been added this year from NYC (JFK), Houston and Seattle in addition to service already offered from Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, and Denver. Many of the major alliances are represented and the airport is serviced by American Airlines, Delta, Frontier and United. Many hotels offer shuttle service to and from the airport and cars can be rented at the airport through Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise. Taxis can also be arranged.

HOTELS

Though there aren’t too many points properties in and around town, there are hotels that participate in other programs such as Visa Signature Hotels, Amex FHR, and Preferred Hotel Group

Hilton

Homewood Suites by Hilton Jackson: At this all-suite property you’re invited to feel right at home with contemporary but warm mountain-style décor and fully equipped kitchens. There are also plenty of perks you probably won’t find at home like an indoor pool and hot tub, and complimentary breakfast. The staff will even do your grocery shopping for you and evening dinner and drinks is offered Monday-Thursday. Rooms have high-backed wooden beds, down comforters and free WiFi. The hotel is located just north of historic downtown Jackson Hole close to the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum and is walking distance to shops, restaurants and the Jackson Town Square. Room rates start at $146 in January. This is a Category 6 hotel and requires 40,000 HHonors points for an award night in January.

Hilton's Homewood Suites is just north of town.

Hilton’s Homewood Suites is just north of town.

Hampton Inn Jackson Hole: A TripAdvisor favorite, this 87-room hotel offers great value and an inviting ambiance in a convenient location 15 minutes from the Jackson Hole Airport. Resort. Rooms feature contemporary furnishings including deep red upholstery and rich mahogany colored beds and tables. There are also fluffy towels and 250 thread count sheets. Guests can stock up on essentials at the onsite convenience store. There’s also an outdoor fire pit, a swimming pool and free hot breakfast as well as complimentary WiFi. Look for the hotel behind the popular Rendezvous Bistro on Highway 89. Rooms start at $116 in January. This is a Category 7 hotel and requires 30,000 HHonors points for a night in January.

Visa Signature

When cardholders use a Visa Signature credit card to book a room through the Visa Signature Hotels program, they are eligible to receive extra perks such as discounted room rates, room upgrades, free breakfast, early check-in and late check-out, dining and spa credits and more. Visa Signature cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire, Ink Bold, Ink Plus, British Airways Visa, the Hyatt card, the Marriott Rewards Premier and Marriott Rewards cards, the Southwest Plus card, Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines cards, Capital One Venture, Citi Hilton HHonors and Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve, US Bank FlexPerks, Citi AAdvantage Visa Signature, and many more, so chances are you’re carrying at least one of them in your wallet.

Enjoy a meal at the Rusty Parrot Lodge's Wild Sage Restaurant.

Enjoy a meal at the Rusty Parrot Lodge’s Wild Sage Restaurant.

Rusty Parrot Lodge and Spa: This 30-room family run lodge has had a AAA Four Diamond rating for 19 consecutive years. Each room features handcrafted beds, European down comforters and deep soaking tubs. The Body Sage spa is located steps from the lodge and offers an array of massages, facials and body treatments. The Apres Ski Massage is a perfect way to unwind after a day on the slopes. The Rusty Parrot is also known for its restaurant, the Wild Sage, a local favorite with an impressive wine list and dishes like pheasant fricassee and espresso-dusted elk short loin. The intimate 32-seat restaurant has a river rock fireplace and an open kitchen. It’s also known for serving one of Jackson Hole’s best breakfasts and its menu includes locally inspired dishes like wild huckleberry pancakes, and chicken and roasted apple sausage omelettes. If you fall in love with the food you can also take home The Rusty Parrot Cookbook. Room rates start at $225 per night in January.

Amangani's breathtaking setting is second to none.

Amangani’s breathtaking setting is second to none.

Amangani: This cliff-clinging resort offers mountain luxury at its best with panoramic views of Grand Teton National Park, rugged sandstone accents and a 35-meter heated outdoor swimming pool. The hotel has 29 suites – some with large balconies and all feature metal fireplaces, woven cowhide chairs and deep soaking tubs. The redwood paneled Grill restaurant focuses on local ranch meats, fresh fish and farm-to-table produce. The hotel is about 20 minutes from the Jackson Hotel Mountain resort, but guests can take advantage of the Amangani Ski Lounge in Teton Village where you can rent ski equipment, organize lessons and grab a snack. Complimentary shuttle service between Amangani and the mountain is also available. Rooms from $1,075 per night in January.

Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts

Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.

Fine Hotels and Resorts is a hotel program specifically for American Express Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders. By booking through this portal, you receive added perks and benefits thrown in with your stay – sort of like you would with elite status or by booking through a travel agent with great contacts at a hotel.

A Premium One-Bedroom Suite at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole.

A Premium One-Bedroom Suite at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole.

Four Seasons Jackson Hole: Located right at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, this 124-room hotel is a great choice if skiing is your main objective. Large rooms make you feel like a resident rather than a guest with gas fireplaces, dark wood and natural stone finishes, and marble bathrooms. Snag a mountain-view room so you can see the sunset over the Grand Tetons from your private terrace. The Four Seasons has three restaurants and a bar,  including new Handlebar, a Michael Mina restaurant with a great après-ski atmosphere. The American pub and beer hall has family-style seating, a black tile and wood bar, high ceilings and a large stone fireplace. You’ll be able to dine on interesting dishes like lobster corn dogs and heritage pork green chili after a day on the slopes. The property’s lavish spa is inspired by the pristine natural surroundings and has a signature Peak Performance Body Ritual with active stretching and therapeutic massage designed to address muscle issues from adventuring in Jackson Hole. Rooms rates start at $489 a night in January.

Preferred Hotels and Resorts

The Wort Hotel's charming exterior.

The Wort Hotel’s charming exterior.

The Wort Hotel: This historic boutique hotel originally opened in 1941 and was the dream of homesteader Charles J. Wort. He bought four lots in downtown Jackson where his children would later build the Wort Hotel. The Tudor revival-style building with stone siding houses 59 Western-style guest rooms decorated with custom-made furniture and original art. The hotel suffered a devastating fire in 1980 but the damage was quickly repaired and it reopened to much fanfare in 1981. Guests can step back in time by entering The Wort’s famed Silver Dollar Bar. Built in 1950 by a German cabinetmaker, the bar top famously features over 2,000 Morgan Silver Dollars from the Denver Mint inlaid in its surface. The Silver Dollar Bar has free live entertainment three nights a week including Bluegrass on Tuesdays. The Wort is a stone’s throw from Jackson’s quaint town square and walking distance to great shopping and dining. Rooms from $229 a night in January.

Prime town views from the Hotel Terra's pool.

Prime views from the Hotel Terra’s pool.

The Hotel Terra: The only LEED-certified hotel in Jackson Hole, the Hotel Terra is an eco-chic option at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The slope side location in Teton Village is so prime you can see the Mountain’s famed aerial tram “Big Red” from the vanishing edge hot tub. The property’s 132 sustainably elegant rooms have 9-foot-high ceilings, expansive windows, and in-floor heating. The hotel has two great restaurants, the casual Terra Café where you can grab breakfast crepes, burritos and smoothies, as well as Il Villaggio Osteria, an upscale Italian restaurant specializing in wood-fired oven pizzas and house-made pastas like red wine risotto with truffle butter and wild mushrooms. WiFi at the Hotel Terra is complimentary. Rooms start at $329.20 a night in January.

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  • ZJ

    I’ve been to Jackson (as it is called; calling it Jackson Hole plays into one of the greatest marketing ploys ever by the resort of that name) many times spanning several decades. Little of what I’ve enjoyed for years is in this post. To be honest it seems like what a brief article in Departures magazine would consist of if written by someone who had never visited.

  • tassojunior

    Spent a couple days in Jackson Hole this summer driving out of Yellowstone. The Tetons are amazing but the drive from Jackson thru the valley (“Hole”) is not amazing like the other entrances to the park. The town is absolutely spectacular. Big and well-to-do but affordable. Excellent restaurants. Reminds me a lot of the way Scottsdale used to be.

    For affordable accomodations I can highly recommend the Motel 6, which I often hate. It’s not like other M6′s, it’s very nice and well-designed with beautiful landscaping. Exceptionally clean. The Virginian motel down the street is also a stand-by. Across the highway the Sidewinder Restaurant was as great as all the locals had recommended.

    All the ritzy resorts are in a separate area outside town called Teton Village. The one thing I regret I missed was the air tram there- I believe it’s the world’s longest. But that’s an excuse to go back- which I would at the drop of a hat.

    We flew into SLC and drove up. The route from SLC to Jackson Hole thru the mountains is beautiful – especially Bear Lake. But it’s steep. The route thru Idaho Falls is freeway but boring as hell.

  • Matt P

    I went to Jackson and Jackson Hole (the resort) for a ski trip a couple years ago. Next to Big Sky in Montana, Jackson Hole has been my favorite resort I’ve ever been to. If you’re an advanced to expert skier/snowboarder, this resort has more steep and challenging slopes than any other place I’ve been. Taking first lift on the gondola to the peak has got to be one of my favorite ski memories. 100 people jammed into a giant gondola, as its swinging 80 feet in the air, everyone singing along with Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere”.

    I disagree with the comment by ZJ about Jackson. For someone from out of town, for the first time in Jackson, I visited many of the things on the list from the article. Granted, I wasn’t visiting the ritzy restaurants, but if you’re only in town for 3 days, its a decent list of things to see and where to shop.

    A word of caution about the airport. While the airport itself is very nice and the scenery around it is spectacular, it is also notoriously susceptible to bad weather. The planes have to make a pretty steep climb/decent, so the runways have to be in pretty good condition to get in or out. On my ski trip out there, my flight got cancelled from Denver to Jackson due to high winds and snow (we tried driving instead, but the major highway in Wyoming was also closed due to ice and wind). On the way out of Jackson, we got delayed 8 hours at the airport due to snow accumulation on the runways.

  • cotoneloc

    You had me at Mangy Moose, THE GREATEST apres ski bar in the US!

  • travelsaurus

    As a Wyoming native, you’ve missed an awesome restaurant–The Blue Lion!! Great rack of lamb, delicious stuffed mushrooms, great wine list.

  • Neil

    You missed the best deal of them all, you can use Amex rewards points to buy lift tickets, 24,000 points for a 3 day lift ticket valued at $335! You can also use points to rent ski’s, poles and boots.

  • tassojunior

    There needs to be some clarification as to geography. “Hole” means valley in WY just as Hollow does down south. Jackson is in Jackson Hole. Teton Village is also in Jackson Hole but some distance from Jackson (12 miles). The confusion comes because the (very expensive) resorts in Teton Village refer to themselves as being in Jackson Hole, Even the Tram is called the Jackson Hole tram. It’s high season now for skiing in Teton Village. It[‘s low season in Jackson as it’s motels cater to Yellowstone travelers. You can stay very cheap in Jackson and drive to Teton Village.

    This post made me think how much I’d like to see Jackson Hole, and especially Teton Village in ski season. Checked and Delta flies out of DCA for $270 rt and Hotwire has it for $249 rt.

  • kristi11876

    The Wort Hotel is one of the best properties I’ve stayed at; LOVED the location, rooms, service; worth paying with cash :)

  • duke wilson

    I am coming to Idhao Falls in June. And by looking to this I make plan to this place also.

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