The concept of vacationing in the middle of winter may not sound like the most appealing idea, but as soon as you get a glimpse of the Grand Tetons from the airplane window, you’ll understand the charm of a snowy getaway. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the surrounding area, has it all: a premium outdoor adventure scene, national parks that take your breath away, and top-of-the-line eateries—all of which combine to make for one epic western vacation.
APRÈS-(AND AVANT) SKI
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, encompasses many things—national parks, the slopes, and the town of Jackson. While you may be tempted by the fresh mountain air to immediately start your vacation with outdoor adventures, the area also has plenty to offer by way of cuisine, shopping, and an overall unmatched cozy ambience. Wake up and prepare to start your epicurean journey with one of Jackson Hole’s finest roasts at Cowboy Coffee Company—a quiet oasis away from the busyness of the mountain scene that has been successfully making bold coffee for three decades. Warm your hands and your soul at this local favorite. Continue your relaxing morning by stopping in Persephone Bakery, which boasts some of the best baked goods in the western part of the country (thanks to its traditional techniques). Persephone is inspired by the quaint cafés of Europe, and as soon as you walk in and take a bite out of one of its delicate pastries, you’ll never want to leave.
For those who seek indoor thrills after a satisfying cup of coffee and want the après-ski to be the highlight of the vacation, plan a relaxing afternoon at one of the many resorts in the area. Hotel Terra is one spot that features a rejuvenating spa and a rooftop hot tub (views included). Another popular location is the Body Sage Spa inside the Rusty Parrot Lodge. The spa has a knowledgeable staff, and it offers a diverse range of treatments for whatever your vacation needs may be. Or, for a total home-away-from-home feel, plant your roots at Amangani—a resort known for its quiet exclusivity. A stay here will push the reset button on your mental health.
Brews and good eats are an essential part of any après-ski activity list, and Jackson Hole offers them up in spades. A staple in the area among locals and visitors alike, Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is a place that lives up to its name. This famous bar has western dancing, classic old-fashioned decor, and live music. (Among the recognizable names who have played here are Hank Williams Jr. and Willie Nelson.) What more could you ask for on a cold winter’s night than sipping on a drink while sitting on a bar stool that doubles as an authentic saddle? Well, it may be fine dining cuisine that’s calling your name, in which case Snake River Grill is where you’ll want to head for exceptional fresh New American cuisine with a chef who takes pride in his dishes. (The steak tartare pizza is talked about far and wide.)
However, the great outdoors in Jackson Hole is just where you’ll find out how much Wyoming prides itself on its preservation efforts. Winter proves to be one of the best times to experience the natural beauty of the protected national parks that make up this grand state—Grand Teton National Park being one of the best. Experience the range via snowshoe, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, or guided tours for both novice and veteran mountain goers. If you choose to experience the park by way of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, you’ll soon understand why so many people flock here for these activities. There are several routes to take: the Teton Park Road, Moose-Wilson Road, and Antelope Flats Road, among others. The routes vary in difficulty levels, depending on how long of an excursion you plan to take, as well as where you decide to start out.
Or bundle up and go on a family trek on the mountains, where you can learn about animal tracking and the various ecosystems that make up the Tetons. It’s a winter backcountry experience that showcases the beauty of the snow-capped peaks during this time of year. The Hole Hiking Experience is one company that gives guided tours to people of all abilities and offers the chance to see Grand Teton National Park in ways that put a Wyoming winter on full display.
You can’t miss out on Yellowstone National Park—the first national park in the country—which is a marvel to traverse through any time of year, but especially during the winter months. While not in Jackson Hole, it’s worth the day trip. You may have to pack on the layers, but the scenic views sans heavy crowds will be worth braving the cold. Witness unique wildlife, such as bison and wolves, as you backcountry ski through the many snowy trails. However, Yellowstone during the winter season isn’t to be underestimated. Keep an eye on weather alerts, drink a lot of water, pay attention to closing hours, and don’t push yourself past your limits.
As you venture back into Jackson Hole, make sure to set aside a couple days to enjoy Teton Village, where you’ll find the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. In the surrounding national forest, mountain goers can snowmobile through scenic terrain, paraglide over Teton Village, and heli-ski down untouched powder snow. If you’ve had enough physical exertion on the mountains, see the range by flight instead. Fly Jackson Hole and Teton Aviation Scenic Flights offer scenic tours that give you 360-degree views of Teton County.
BIG THRILLS IN JACKSON HOLE
The small-town feel of Jackson Hole is important to the locals, and the preservation of this nostalgic atmosphere is what keeps tourists coming back. Adventure beckons you at every turn—whether on the mountains or off of them. Family-run shops, restaurants, and bars welcome you with open arms when you’ve dusted off the snow from your day on the slopes, and resort spas offer you refuge from the cold with unparalleled spa treatments.
You would be hard-pressed to find mountains as grand, wildlife as captivating, and views as breathtaking as Jackson Hole’s during the winter season. Whether you’re going to escape the winter chill by way of spas and breakfast nooks, embracing the weather to hit the slopes and backcountry terrain, or both, the vacation that awaits you in Teton County will have you wondering why you didn’t plan a winter vacation here years ago.
For more info, visit visitjacksonhole.com.