Some call it “The American Serengeti;” others “the snowmobiling capital of the world,” and still others cite it as the birthplace of the modern conservation movement. I call Jackson Hole a montropolis. It’s a singular mountain town bursting with rich art, culture, rustic flavor, an abundance of wildlife, and a range of snow-fueled adventures, with an astonishing 97% of its land protected.
WHERE TO STAY
Spring Creek Ranch
Accommodations range from rustic cabins to deluxe condos and mountain villas, each offering a unique experience of the pristine surrounding scenery. With windows the size of Wales that overlook the white flames of the Tetons and vistas that showcase seemingly boundless wilderness, it’s easy to get swallowed up in the majestic backcountry. Spring Creek Ranch offers a slew of impressive services such as spa packages, access to all-season activities, and guided wildlife safaris year-round. An added bonus is the resort’s wonderful on-site bar and restaurant, The Granary, a place within which I quickly felt at home. For more details about the restaurant, scroll to the WHERE & WHAT TO DRINK section.
The first of the world-renowned Aman resorts established in North America, Amangani is perched high on East Gros Ventre Butte, allowing for stunning views and a peaceful location.
Nothing short of luxury, this resort offers ski-in/ski-out services. A great place to collapse after a long day on the mountain.
Eco-friendly, elegant, and just one mile from Grand Teton National Park.
A small, historic hotel with a warm, intimate vibe.
WHERE & WHAT TO EAT
Or chew on this lusciousness at Trio.
If you’re looking for Italian, go to Il Villaggio Osteria – Guido Sarducci pizza, YES. Housemade orecchiette, YES YES.
Fine dining at its most fabulous can be found at The Kitchen.
For a stylish wine bar serving Mediterranean tapas, try Bin 22.
WHERE & WHAT TO DRINK
The Granary Restaurant At Spring Creek Ranch
The window view makes it seem as though you are in a balloon over the Tetons.
Local brewery, with localicious food. Try the hamburger made from organic beef from nearby Mead Ranch, on a bun from a local bakery, using mustard made from a local beer, and cheese from a local farm.
WHAT TO DO
Take a Snowmobile Ride to Granite Hot Springs.
Jackson Hole is said to have the best snowmobiling in the world. At the Lost Creek Ranch Lodge & Spa, the owner, Mike Halpin, offered to take me on one of his favorite runs, a ten-mile spin to Granite Hot Springs. A dip in the 104-degree hot springs is a perfect way to soak the muscles after a long day of snow adventures.
Place your bets at Jackson Hole Shrine Club.
The club’s two main events–Cutter Races and Ski Joring–are favorites of the locals. They only happen once year, so mark your calendars and plan your visit around these two unique and thrilling events. You can feel good about gambling your dollars away, because both events are charitable fundraisers for the local children’s hospital.
Spend a day visiting Teton Raptor Center.
Jackson Hole is the birthplace of the modern conservation movement. Here they conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery. Here you can connect with eagles, kestrels, hawks and gyrfalcons, and Owly, a female great-horned owl.
Take a winter sleigh ride through the largest Elk Refuge in the nation.
Glide through the “Museum on the Hoof,” the 25,000-acre National Elk Refuge, where up to 10,000 wintering elk make their grounds. It is for this fact that Jackson Hole is often known as “The American Serengeti.” The refuge was established in 1912 to ensure the survival of the herd after a combination of human development and severe winters took their toll. It now provides a non-enclosed sanctuary for the largest elk herd on Earth. I head there to see the wildlife up close and personal, and make my way to an entrance on the western side, just past a section of Flat Creek stirring with trumpeter swans. I jump on a horse-drawn sleigh, driven by guide Jeff Warburton, who entertains and informs as we jangle about the refuge wrapped in thick blankets, watching the elk aimlessly munch on staff-provided alfalfa pellets.
Where else can you get this close to a 1000 lb. feral animal with a rack the size of a chandelier? The theory is that by encouraging children and parents to get close enough to look into the eyes of a wild elk, it is harder to take actions that might hurt them. In many cases, says Jeff, people fall in love, and people conserve what they love.
Go Cross Country Skiing at Teton Pines Cross Country Ski Center.
Safe for all ages and levels, this kind of skiing allows you to fully immerse yourself in your environment. The scenes and wildlife are incredible! Ask for the owner, Jack Bellorado, to show you the way.
Get your adrenaline going at Ski Jackson Hole Resort.
This place is a staple and boasts a plethora of snow adventures and activities.
I caught up with Professional Big Mountain Freeskier Jess McMillan. She is a Freeskiing World Tour Champion, the U.S. Freeskiing National Champion, and also a keen champion for Jackson Hole, which she says is the best training grounds for freeskiing in the world.
Go museum hopping.
Jackson Hole is a place of endless inspiration, and it’s evident in the prevalence of art galleries in the valley. Here are a few we visited:
National Museum of Wildlife Art
Paintings and sculptures dating back to 2500 b.c. This place is a must-see!
Jackson Hole Center for the Arts
This modern art center hosts film screenings, theatre performances, concerts, conferences and summer camps. This is Jackson Hole’s one-stop shop for entertainment.
Trio Fine Art Studio
A little gallery on the edge of town known for its vibrant scene and intimate atmosphere, where a thriving community of art lovers, collectors, and the artists themselves all mingle. Possibly our favorite was the art of renowned painter and Wyoming’s best watercolor artist Kathryn Turner.
HOW TO GET THERE
You can research and book all your air to Jackson Hole at www.orbitz.com