A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
The Grand Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming is just a toddler as mountains in the Rockies go. The glaciers began sculpting the 40-mile range of peaks just two million years ago. The local Shoshone people called the range Teewinot, meaning “many pinnacles.” The French voyageurs had a bit more colorful imagination. They dubbed the range Les Trois Tetons, literally “the three nipples” after the breast-like shape of its peaks.
Many moons later – 1939 to be fairly exact – the Jackson Winter Sports Association ran a rope tow up Snow King Mountain and Wyoming ski resorts started their long run to prominence.
There are so many reasons to spend your ski vacation in Wyoming, which truly is the Wild West of the ski world. While Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is the most famous and, by far, the most popular, as the old song goes, “that’s not all there is.”
Here’s a surprise that skiers and snowboarders who have come here for years already know: It’s a toss-up between Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Resort. Yes, the two are close to the same size, both hardly lack for generous powder, and according to the Wyoming ski resorts map are just a 45-minute drive apart, but that’s where it stops. The great terrain and, most especially, the vibes are as they say, “to each its own.”
Jackson Hole is without a doubt a world-class ski resort in every way. There are 2,500 acres of challenging in-bounds terrain and open-gate access to incredible backcountry adventure. There’s a vertical drop of 4,139 feet. Understand more than half the skiable terrain is rated “expert” and is among the most challenging in the country. Still, there’s enough terrain for intermediates and beginners to enjoy.
Ride a 100-passenger tram, an 8-passenger gondola, 6 quad chairs, 2 triples, a double and a couple of tows. Jackson is often right up there in skier polls with Aspen, Vail and Whistler when looking for the #1 ski resort in North America.
Jackson Hole is easily accessible from anywhere and the clientele, as once somewhat aptly described by a Powder magazine writer, “all cowboy hats driving Escalades” is not far off. There are some surveys noting that Jackson may be (second) home to the wealthiest people in the country with some 15,000 millionaires and a few billionaires calling it “home.” The Town Square, with its iconic welcoming antlers, is a Western town like few others. There are myriads of hotel and condo choices, but plan to open your wallet fairly widely in downtown Jackson.
Looking for a more laidback vibe with everything you could ask for on a mountain sans lift lines? Your powder heaven is Grand Targhee. The name derives from a combo of Grand Tetons and Chief Targhee of the Bannock Tribe known for his pacificism and character. Where is it? Well, that’s a challenge. Targhee is on the western side of the Teton range, where it collects snow in droves from the Pacific. It actually is nearest to Alta, Wyoming though most visitors tie it to Driggs, Idaho about 13 miles away. You can stay at the resort or in Driggs.
No Cadillacs here. Locals often refer to themselves as “Targheezers.” Fashion is hardly a priority on and off the mountain (leave the fancy duds at home) and if your equipment breaks, duct tape is the local solution. Got the idea? This ain’t Jackson Hole or Sun Valley or Vail. But, think Alta, Utah for some mountain comparison. There's cat skiing here, too.
But, what you see is what you get: marvelous bands of ungroomed snow that intermediates and experts will fall in love with, along with plenty of groomed trails if your knees get wobbly or you are getting your ski legs loosened from Eastern hard pack. There are 2,600 acres served by 5 lifts. Targhee has gigantic amounts of intermediate terrain and is less challenging, but just as fulfilling as its neighbor on the other side of the range.
It's the snow, baby! No such thing as average snowfall here. But, you usually can count on some 500 inches (43 feet) of snow each winter. It’s drier, too, with less than 5 percent water content. It may head here to Targhee from the Pacific, but it leaves its Sierra cement there.
So, no, it’s not as convenient as Jackson Hole, but what it lacks in access and glitz and glamour, it makes up in spades with unfettered, uncrowded lifts and slopes and untracked powder for all.
The winner is probably Grand Targhee in terms of skiing and riding play areas for all skill levels, but Jackson takes the prize for the best expert terrain.
The oldest may be the best for young families. Snow King, on a smaller scale, is just a few blocks from Jackson Square. Snow King Resort hotel has a pool and lots of activities for kids. This is the “town hill” and a hassle-less place for families because the slopes are uncrowded, there’s tubing for the kids and even a winter-operating coaster. Night skiing, too. Don’t underestimate Snow King though, there’s plenty of expert terrain, too. In total, you’ll find 35 runs over 450 skiable acres, 3 chairs and a 1,750-foot vertical drop. Members of the family can have the best of both worlds – Snow King and Jackson Hole – by splitting up for the day. And, by the way, Snow King runs all its lifts on renewable energy.
Jackson Hole has two terrain parks and four Burton Stash Parks. But, all the ski areas have at least one park to enjoy.
Give the nod to Grand Targhee, starting with the friendly, knowledgeable staff in the rental shop to the ski school and the novice-friendly slopes like Chief Joe and, when you dump the pizza turns for French fries, Exhibition. The lack of crowds takes the tension out of learning to ski.
No argument here. Head into Jackson Square at Jackson Hole. Dance, drink and have fun 7 nights a week. It’s also a top foodie city in the U.S.
Hogadon is a good choice for keeping it small and fun. The ski area is on Mt. Casper and is 11 miles south of the city. You’ll find a couple of lifts, terrain park with most of the terrain (80 percent) intermediate and advanced and 20 percent beginner. Locals call it an “unfussy” vibe.
You’ll find unlimited choices for intermediates at Grand Targhee. It’s best for intermediates. Hands down.
Jackson Hole may have the best expert terrain in the country.
There are nine ski resorts in Wyoming: Grand Targhee, Hogadon Basin, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Meadowlark Ski Lodge, Pine Creek Ski Resort, Sleeping Giant Ski & Recreation Area, Snow King Resort, and White Pine Ski Area.
Most certainly. You can choose from the two major resorts – Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee – or any of the small mountains that really aren’t “that small” in terms of diverse terrain from Snow King across the valley from Jackson Hole to Hogadon Basin outside of Casper to Sleeping Giant near the eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
The 40-mile long Grand Tetons are the most important mountain range in the state. Also the Bighorn Mountains, Snowy Range, Wind River and the southern end of the Sawtooth that stretches to Sun Valley, Idaho. There are actually 109 named mountain ranges and sub-ranges here.
Count on Wyoming skiing from Thanksgiving (or just after) through Easter. Check out a list of Open resorts in Wyoming.
Just how cold is it in Wyoming? With an average annual snowfall of 56.3 inches, Wyoming is one of the snowiest states. Winter temps can drop below zero at night, but usually range in the 30’s during the ski days. Fog makes it way to Grand Targhee, but generally burns off. Locals call it “Grand Foggy.”
Wyoming has nine commercial airports, but the majority of flights to Wyoming for skiing come to Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), the only commercial airport in the United States located within a National Park (i.e., Grand Teton National Park).
Jackson is a really cool wild Western town in every way. Jackson serves as a major gateway to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. Jackson’s wooden sidewalks have been strolled upon by cowboys and cowgirls for more than 100 years, ersatz or not today. The Mangy Moose Steakhouse sits at the base of Jackson Hole Ski Resort and is a favorite of locals and visitors for food, drinks, music and grocery needs. It’s casual and family-friendly.
Wildlife, history, and the rodeo are all rolled into Cody, named after William “Buffalo Bill” Cody who founded it. It’s a gateway to the east entrance to Yellowstone and skiing is available at Sleeping Giant.
Driggs, Idaho is a former ghost town that has come to life as an upcoming place to stay and enjoy while skiing at Grand Targhee. There are plenty of good restaurants including the Forage Bistro and The Royal Wolf. Stay in chain and indy motels and condos.
It’s the diversity of skiing and riding terrain that makes Wyoming a superb destination for your next ski vacation. The Grand Tetons with Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee and Snow King are ideal – particularly for resort hopping and all that snow. There are other choices if you’re visiting Casper or Cody, for example. So, if you like it big or small, glitzy and not-so-much, choose Wyoming.