Destination: Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole isn’t the largest ski resort in America (that would be Vail), nor does it have or want the cosmopolitan edge of an Aspen. The draws, as longtime visitors know, are the expansive Grand Teton landscapes and some of the most challenging winter terrain in North America. It’s truly a resort created by—and for—passionate skiers.
Which is not to say that it doesn’t have top hotels, including North America’s first Aman, which opened here in 1998, and a flawlessly run Four Seasons at the base of the mountain. Restaurants are excellent, too, from the cozy eateries in Jackson to lofty new Couloir, perched at 9,000 feet at the Gondola Summit. But my recent trip confirmed that the destination has not lost any of its quirky small-town charm, drawing visitors who come here in search of simple pleasure, whether that means curling up by a fireplace with a good book or tearing down a double-black-diamond run. It’s the kind of place where everyone cherishes being low-key and blending into the ultra-casual Western setting. My ski instructor told me about a memorable gondola ride, during which an oblivious visitor struck up a conversation with the only other rider in the car, asking about where he lived and, impressed by the answer (split time between Los Angeles and Jackson Hole), asked what he did for a living. “Oh, this and that,” replied a visibly amused Harrison Ford.
It’s difficult not to be inspired by the haunting, expansive landscapes, which remain largely untouched thanks to strict preservation: some 97 percent are protected. There’s incredible wildlife—the first thing I saw when gazing out of my room at the Amangani was a cruising bald eagle—and a seemingly innate eco-consciousness permeates everyday life. Not surprisingly, the newest hotel in Teton Village, Terra, is a green, Leed-certified property, so the in-room coffee is fair-trade, materials are sustainable and recycled, and the bath amenities all-natural. Located right at the end of the Gros Ventre run, Terra is a great place for dare-devil skiers, many of whom speak of Jackson Hole in almost reverential terms—the euphemism “going to church” is widely understood as going skiing. It’s one of the only resorts in the American West that sees a huge percentage of advanced skiers taking lessons, in preparation of tackling the 5,000 acres of out-of-bound terrain. Even the groomed slopes are challenging—a ski instructor told me that blue runs in Jackson Hole would be considered black in most other places.
On our last day, my husband and I were heading up our favorite chairlift (Thunder) one last time, when we saw a skier stop briefly on a ledge leading into a narrow chute. He was dressed in an expensive designer suit, was outfitted with top equipment had a somewhat solemn demeanor. After a minute of perusing the area, he adjusted his goggles and dropped into the terrain. Then we heard a long-drawn scream: “Weeeeeee, powder!” Transforming seemingly serious adults into giddy kids: that’s the magic trick Jackson Hole does so well.
If you are planning a trip to Jackson Hole, contact our booking department by calling 212-988-2611 or by sending an inquiry.
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