Our latest blog post comes from a long-standing Ski Independence client and veritable food, drink and skiing connoisseur. John shared his Jackson Hole ski resort review with us after he recently returned there many years after his first visit.
“I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town.”
Jackson Hole is a town-sized dude ranch. That’s not a criticism, it is a proper western town, but one can’t help noticing that the day of the cowboy and the wild west is more legend than present day reality. Still, I love the place.
The Town Of Jackson
When first we visited many years back, having exited Yellowstone Park at the south gate and driven through the Grand Teton National Park admiring moose, elk and coyote en route, Jackson had a population of around five thousand and, whilst one didn’t exactly see horses tethered outside the saloon, there was the feeling that the cowboys might be out of town on a roundup and would any minute return, driving a few hundred head of longhorns before them.
In the intervening years the population has doubled and the pickup truck has replaced the horse. The centre is largely unchanged and the town square still boasts four substantial arches made entirely of elk antlers. On the south side stands The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, topped by the biggest, rotating-est neon sign in town. An institution almost since its opening in 1937, the bar is a tourist magnet where customers sit on bar stools with genuine western saddles – stirrups, pommel and all. It’s good fun, but disappointingly, in a town with its own breweries, it does not serve draught beer. Downstairs is the grill where they serve steaks the circumference of a Stetson (well, almost) and other traditional western fare; the food is not exceptional, but the price is.
Indeed, if you want a good steak, I’d recommend another Jackson fixture, The Wort. The grande dame of the town’s hotels, The Wort is home to the Silver Dollar Bar, named for the two thousand odd mint silver dollar coins embedded in the bar top. Adjacent is the Silver Dollar grill which serves excellent international fare. The French onion soup is exceptional and a grown-up size portion a delicious meal in itself.
Many of the bars in town feature live music, mostly country style, and there are more art galleries than seems probable for such a small town. There is a little two-screen cinema, which is quaint and shows the latest Hollywood releases. And of course, there’s the shopping. If you want anything from a saddle to a silver mounted belt, a Stetson hat or tooled leather cowboy boots you’re in the right place.
On this occasion we were in Wyoming to ski and chose to stay at the Hotel Terra in Teton Village, just half an hour from Jackson. Plenty of skiers choose to stay in town, perhaps in order to ski Snow King as well as the more extensive slopes of the Tetons, but for us proximity to the main ski area is of paramount importance. Only the Four Seasons offers genuine ski-in, ski-out, but The Terra, which combines self-catering condos with a full-service hotel, is ski-in with a relatively short walk to the lifts on outward journey. Don’t fancy carrying your skis at all? Well, there’s a ski valet station adjacent to the gondolas.
The Terra is very comfortable and the customer care excellent. If you get fed up with catering for yourself there are two options within, Il Villaggio Osteria and Bar Enoteca. The former is a relaxed Italian restaurant where for diner I had a sweet green salad with pecorino and anchovy dressing followed by rabbit confit, which was delicious. The breakfasts are also excellent. The Bar Enoteca is very casual with a short order menu, local draft beer and speciality cocktails. The Roadhouse Brewing Company’s impressively named Sacred Creed Saison is a cross between lager and an IPA and is fruity, hoppy and admirable, as is the four-cheese polenta, a satisfying light bite.
Another dining option in the Village is The Alpenhof, a slightly incongruous Swiss chalet with an American twist. There’s a bistro that offers all the usual fare, but for fine dining their Alpenrose Restaurant is recommended. Eat surrounded by decorated pine and be served by waiters in traditional Swiss costume. Even if you find that a touch bizarre, the food is good; the schnitzel and apfel strudel are, as you might expect, particularly so, but if you want to go totally Swiss, they offer cheese or meat fondue. As with everywhere to eat, a glass of wine is expensive at between $10 and $15 a pop, so the smart choice is to buy a bottle, drink what you want and take the rest with you. A wine selling for $10 a glass is available for around $30 a bottle, it’s a no brainer.
If you are eating in, it’s worth noting there are only two options for groceries and wine in the Village, the deli market below The Mangy Moose and Bodega; both are expensive, but the former has a better choice. The sensible option is to take the SMART Bus into Jackson – frequent regular services for just $3 – and get what you need at Albertsons, a vast supermarket with everything you could possibly want.
Of course, no visit to Teton Village would be complete without dinner at The Mangy Moose Steakhouse, an institution since 1967. If you want character and ambience this is the place; hunting trophies (including the eponymous moose) adorn the walls along with hundreds of posters for old movies. It gets very busy so a reservation is recommended, but the service is efficient and cheerful. We ate there twice. On the first occasion I enjoyed one of the specialities, American meatloaf with bison, and on the second I challenged my appetite with a double pork chop, both very hearty, substantial dishes after a hard day’s skiing. There’s an impressive draught beer menu too.
We were not so enamoured of The Spur restaurant in the Teton Mountain Lodge. It’s not that the food wasn’t good or that the service poor, indeed it would be unfair to criticise either, but this is a mid-market family hotel and the restaurant was crowded and so noisy it was difficult to hold a conversation. We asked to be moved to a slightly less raucous table, but still noisy children racing around the restaurant didn’t make for a relaxed evening.
Skiing in Jackson Hole
We were there to ski so a word or two on that. Jackson Hole has a reputation for being a challenging resort with appeal for expert skiers and a good ski school, but not much in between. It’s much better than that. Yes, there is more than enough to keep the expert challenged with double blacks a plenty, but there are also miles of blues and double blues, mostly well groomed, to keep cruisers entertained. The resort has also built a new ski school facility below half way on the Sweetwater gondola above multiple easy blue and green runs. The facility also boasts a buffet restaurant which a local described as a well-kept secret. It is principally for the use of the school and although not promoted it welcomes all comers; it also has the best restrooms on the mountain.
The Tram to the top of Rendezvous, the bigger of the main peaks, is always busy and at weekends the queues are prodigious. Not particularly keen to stand in line we tended to use the adjacent Bridger and Sweetwater gondolas from the top of which the range of quad chairs lift you to all points. The Sublette chair takes you almost as high as the Tram. The whole vast area is well served by interconnected lifts and runs from the Rendezvous to the Saratoga bowls at opposite ends of the range.
It is also home to the famed Corbet’s Couloir. For the uninitiated, a couloir is a narrow gully and Corbet’s is accessed via a daunting drop-in before a long steep chute leads to the Tensleep Bowl. Years ago, younger and foolhardier, I attempted it and came away unscathed. This time on older legs, one with a new knee implanted, I wondered whether I should chance it. Fortunately, any temptation was removed – the couloir was closed as it was being prepared for a special occasion, the annual Kings and Queens of Corbet’s event that sees brave young men and women hurl themselves down the couloir for prizes. Good luck to them, nowadays I think I’d prefer a beer in Corbet’s Cabin.
Whether you are a skier, a wildlife enthusiast, a fan of the American west, someone who appreciates breathtakingly beautiful scenery or all of these things, Jackson Hole is recommended with enthusiasm.
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