I’m staring down the face of a double back diamond run as my instructor for the day, Jess McMillan, (a Freeskiing World Tour Champion) shouts up encouragement. “You an do it, just stay focused,” say McMillan. The run is so steep, with a sheer rocky section in the middle, I can’t even see McMillan or my classmates at the bottom. Judging by the wipeouts that have gone before me, I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to be easy. I try to put into use the pointers I’ve learned over the last week at Elevate Women’s Ski Camp, a twice yearly ski-camp for intermediate and advanced female skiers at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. I pick my line and set off. There is little room for error and I quickly turn left, then right to navigate my way around the rocky shelf bracing my legs hard to keep my skis from chattering and then left again before cruising down the less technical lower section to safety.
With over 4,000 vertical feet of skiing and half of the mountain devoted to expert terrain, there is arguably no better resort in the United States to hone your skiing and snowboarding skills then Jackson Hole. The resort hosts multiple camps each year including Steep & Deep Ski and Snowboarding Camps, a Backcountry Ski Camp and the Elevate Women’s Camp which has four day sessions in both January and March.
During the camp, we met each morning at 8:30 am to ride the aerial tram “Big Red” to the summit where we would break into our groups and discuss goals and plans for the day. My group (a daring group of women aged 30-60) spent the majority of our time skiing off the groomers, and we even did a bit of backcountry. One day, a videographer filmed our skiing, so our instructor Caroline could critique us, something I found completely eye opening. I’ve always felt like I bend my knees and absorb shock when I ski. In the video I looked stiff as a board. During the camp professional skiers McMillan and Crystal Wright took turns skiing with the various groups and taught pilates and stretching classes in the evening.
After bidding farewell to Jackson, it wasn’t long before I found myself skiing with my husband in Mammoth Lakes, California. I felt confident and strong and the steep mogul-filled runs that I once would have shyed away from now seemed like a welcome challenge. After skiing a Jackson Hole double black diamond there’s not much that will frighten you.
If you go to Jackson Hole;
For the best après ski scene in the village don’t miss this restaurant in Teton Mountain Lodge where the rustic atmosphere and decadent dishes like dry-aged buffalo sliders are exactly what you want after a day on the hill.
3385 Cody Lane
This contemporary take on the traditional Jackson Hole steakhouse serves dishes like coffee rubbed seared elk medallions and buffalo tartare. The lively restaurant with wood paneled walls and iron chandeliers is also a popular happy hour destination and features half off wine, beer and cocktails from 4-6pm every day along with one of Jackson’s best burgers for just $8.
55 North Cache
This Jackson Hole landmark churns out dishes like chicken under a brick and goose leg confit out of a woodburning oven. Don’t forget to put in your order for the decadent chocolate soufflé for dessert–it takes 25 minutes, but is worth the wait.
84 E Broadway
One of the best on mountain restaurants in the country Couloir is located at the summit of the Bridger Gondola in Rendezvous Lodge. Make reservations for a decadent lunch of poutine with Idaho potatoes and mushroom gravy and an open-faced meatloaf sandwich or ride the gondola up for dinner in the evening. If you can swing it, make reservations at the Chef’s Table where you’ll dine on a seasonal four-course tasting menu in the restaurant’s kitchen.
Yes, even Jackson has a speakeasy. The craft cocktail bar in the Pink Garter Theater is filled with diamond tuft backed booths and chandeliers. Drinks like the Shady Business- whiskey, lemon, maple, fernet branca and mint will warm you on a bitter Jackson night.
50 W Broadway Ave.
307 733 1500
The only LEED certified hotel in Jackson Hole, the Hotel Terra is an eco-chic option at the base of the resort. The slope side location in Teton Village is so prime you can see the mountain’s famed aerial tram “Big Red” from the vanishing edge hot tub. The property’s 132 sustainably elegant rooms have 9-foot high ceilings, expansive windows, and in-floor heating. The hotel has two great restaurants, the casual Terra Café where you can grab breakfast crepes, burritos and smoothies, as well as Il Villaggio Osteria, an upscale Italian restaurant specializing in wood-fired oven pizzas and house-made pastas like red wine risotto with truffle butter and wild mushrooms.
3335 West Village Drive
This historic boutique hotel opened in 1941 and was the dream of homesteader Charles J. Wort. He bought four lots in downtown Jackson where his children would later build the Wort Hotel. The Tudor revival-style building with stone siding features 59 Western style guest rooms decorated with custom furniture and original art. Guests can step back in time by entering The Wort’s famed Silver Dollar Bar. Built in 1950 by a German cabinet maker, the bar top famously features over 2,000 Morgan Silver Dollars from the Denver Mint inlaid in its surface.
50 North Glenwood Street
Located right at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, this 124-room hotel is a great choice if skiing is your main objective. Large rooms make you feel like a resident not a guest with gas fireplaces, dark wood and natural stone finishes, and marble bathrooms. Snag a mountain-view room so you can see the sunset over the Grand Tetons from your private terrace. The Four Seasons has three restaurants and a bar in including Handlebar, a Michael Mina restaurant with communal seating, a black tile and wood bar, high ceilings and a large stone fireplace. You’ll be able to dine on interesting dishes like lobster corndogs and heritage pork green chili after a day on the slopes.
7680 Granite Loop Rd.
This cliff clinging resort offers mountain luxury at its best with panoramic views of Grand Teton National Park, rugged sandstone accents and a 35-meter heated outdoor swimming pool. The hotel has 29 suites—some with large balconies and all feature metal fireplaces, woven cowhide chairs and deep soaking tubs. The redwood paneled Grill restaurant focuses on local ranch meats, fresh fish and farm to table produce. The hotel is about 20 minutes from the Jackson Hotel Mountain resort, but guests can take advantage of the Amangani Ski Lounge in Teton Village where you can rent ski equipment, organize lessons and grab a snack. Complimentary shuttle service between Amangani and the mountain is also available.
1535 North East Butte Road
Another great winter activity in Jackson Hole is a visit to the National Elk Refuge just north of town. From mid-December through early April, horse drawn sleigh rides can be arranged and allow you to get up close with thousands of elk. Overlooking the refuge, the National Museum of Wildlife Art houses a world-class collection of American art from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Every February locals look forward to this two-week long celebration that includes snow sculpting, ski races, and skijouring—an extreme sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse through a race course and over jumps.
Shop Downtown and Teton Village
Jackson Hole’s historic town square is worth a peak for its iconic archways each made out of 2,000 elk antlers. The streets that surround the square are lined with art galleries and shops including MADE, a jewelry and home furnishings store, fashion boutique Altitude and Terra, a clothing store that stocks Milly, Trina Turk and Nanette Lepore. For menswear, head to Teton Village’s Wool & Whiskey a clothing store that also has a fully stocked whiskey bar. Enjoy Jameson on the rocks while perusing brands like Steven Alan, Woolrich, and Danner in the old west saloon style space.
Check out Live Music
Jackson has some great live music venues including the famed Mangy Moose in Teton Village, a local favorite, and the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in downtown Jackson, a landmark watering hole with saddle barstools and walls made of knotted wood.