Of the few Rocky Mountain communities that successfully toe the line between resort and indigenous town, Jackson is a standout. Located 60 miles south of Yellowstone, Jackson Hole's million-dollar homes sprout all over the valley (formerly called a "hole"), but there is still open space, a respect for cowboys and resistance to too much glitz. Modern Jackson Hole has become a mix of ski bums, blue bloods, nouveau riche, avid outdoor types, and a few real, live cowboys, many with a hunger for music, art, and good restaurants.
Knee-deep powder and a backdrop of the soaring Grand Tetons greets skiers at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Steep slopes and challenging drop-offs are the norm at this resort, a favorite among enthusiasts. Gentler inclines occupy skiers at Grand Targhee Resort. With over 500 inches of fresh, dry powder each winter, snow lovers can count on Alpine and Nordic nirvana during the day, and romantic, starlit sleigh rides after dark.
Things to Do
Grand Teton National Park has always been a prime draw for visitors to Jackson Hole. Footpaths meander throughout this mountainous park, under whispering aspens, alongside crystal-clear Jenny Lake and beneath the jagged, lavender peaks of the Teton Range. Jackson Hole's Snake River hosts rafting trips until the snow flies. The upper Snake takes boaters past grazing moose and elk; the lower Snake is a wild, whitewater nail-biter. Soar above it all on the Snow King chair lift for unparalleled views.
Eating and Drinking
Wyoming's Western past is honored at old-fashioned chuckwagon dinners. Diners mosey out with Bar-T-5's Covered Wagon Cookout, traveling via Conestoga to the Cache Creek Canyon, where rock-strewn mountain cliffs angle upward to meet the sky. There, plates overflow with barbecued chicken, baked beans and corn-on-the-cob, accompanied by singing cowboys. Local fish and game fill menus at Jackson Hole restaurants, from the traditional to the contemporary. Try pan-seared elk chops, lean buffalo burgers or freshly caught, pecan-crusted salmon.
When the autumn chill sets in, Jackson Hole's resident bull elks fill the air with their shrill bugle calls. By December, a herd of thousands fills the National Elk Refuge, their imposing antlers held impossibly high. Visitors see the herd up close on horse-drawn sleigh rides through March. Nearby, Wyoming celebrates the animal kingdom at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Bronze sculptures, pottery, oil paintings and photographs depict bison, bears and birds from 2500 B.C. to the present.