Jackson Hole: Stunning Mountains and National Parks

Jackson Hole, WY, is among the top three ski and snowboard destinations in North America, and is also an ideal summer destination for nature afficionados.

The resort averages 460 inches of snow annually, and between its two mountains, Après Vous and Rendezvous, it has 11 lifts, including a gondola, accessing 2,500 acres of in-bounds terrain with 4,139 feet of vertical, the greatest continuous rise in the U.S. You can also take advantage of the open backcountry gate system—also the best in America—to access more than 3,000 additional acres of terrain. The top-to-bottom tram is being replaced with an upgraded, state-of-the-art model to open in 2008. In the meantime, all of the terrain can be accessed via the Bridger Gondola and a series of lifts culminating in the East Ridge double chair, which carries you to the summit of Rendezvous.  Buffalo roam the prairie, grazing, as a flock of birds lands in front of the Teton Mountain Range

While there are two terrain parks, a superpipe with a rope tow and groomers for beginners and intermediates, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort attracts advanced skiers and riders looking to challenge themselves on the big mountain's steeps, moguls, tree-runs, bowls, chutes and couloirs. Try to run the Hobacks top to bottom without stopping—the relentless extreme wilderness terrain, which is in-bounds but resembles the back bowls of other resorts, averages 45 degrees and will give you quite a workout. The craggy Corbet's Couloir and several cliffs have been featured in ski and snowboard films. The slopes of Jackson Hole can be summed up in a word: epic. Mountain bikers speed along one of the many trails on the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the summer

You may be surprised to know, however, that Jackson Hole attracts even more people in the summer. Popular warm-weather activities include hiking (guided or independent), biking, boating, water skiing and wakeboarding, river rafting, canoeing and kayaking, rock climbing, hang-gliding, horseback riding, fishing, camping and wildlife watching. A skier shreds powder on Jackson Hole's epic slopes

The National Elk Refuge, just north of the town of Jackson, is home to almost 10,000 elk during the winter. The elk stay in the refuge through the spring, and begin their migration out of the high meadows in the fall, usually after the first snowstorm. The refuge covers about 25,000 acres of open fields, streams, ponds and marshes. In addition to elk, the refuge is home to at least 46 other mammal species and nearly 175 bird species. Trout fishing on the refuge has become a summer event for local and visiting anglers alike. In the spring, ask about Elk Fest, where Boy Scouts collect elk antlers (which are shed yearly), and sell them on the third Saturday in May, providing funding for both the refuge and the local Scout Troops.

Two other must-see-and-explore areas are Grand Teton National Park—about a mile away—and Yellowstone National Park, 90 miles north of the town of Jackson. In Grand Teton, the jagged peaks jut up dramatically from the plains, which are decorated with sage and glacial lakes. Yellowstone, the first National Park in the U.S., has 250 active geysers, including Old Faithful, and thousands of hot springs. Every year, each park attracts nearly four million visitors seeking jaw-dropping scenery and abundant wildlife.

Entertainment and Activities

If you're looking for nightlife, the Mangy Moose Saloon, slopeside in Teton Village, is great for après ski and—later in the evening—live music. In the summer, don't miss the Grand Teton Music Festival, which offers more than 40 top-notch classical and chamber music concerts, including a free show on the Fourth of July. Snow King Amphitheatre has pop music.

There is a free, nine-hole disc golf course on the mountain, which has picnic tables spread throughout. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, ride up the mountain in the Bridger Gondola and ride down on your mountain bike, or try a tandem paragliding flight from the top of Rendezvous Mountain.

For children, there is the Kid's Ranch Summer Day Camp from June 12 to September 4, featuring adventures in Teton Village with a focus on the nature, history, and science of Jackson Hole. Activities include hiking from the Aerial Tram, outdoor sports, science projects, arts and crafts and water play.

The town of Jackson, 10 miles from the slopes, has a good, eclectic mix of galleries, restaurants, bars and shops. Climb aboard the old stagecoach for a horse-drawn carriage ride around the town square. For local nighttime color, check out the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and the award-winning Snake River Brewing Co., a.k.a. the Brewpub. At the Chuckwagon's dinners and western shows, you can eat like the cowboys and enjoy everything from musical comedy shows to Buffalo Bill period reenactments with cowboys and American Indians.

The Wild West Shootout is a popular, free reenactment of frontier justice in the Jackson town square, taking place Monday through Saturday. To experience cowboy competition, including bull riding, team roping and barrel racing, go to the Jackson Hole Rodeo at the fairgrounds on Snow King Avenue on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Both the shootout and the rodeo run from Memorial Day to Labor Day.


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