Goin’ to Jackson
There’s way more to Jackson Hole than its fantastic skiing, writes Angela Saurine.
ALKING through the streets of Jackson is like stepping back in time. With its wooden boardwalks, log cabins, saloons and colourful playhouses, you could easily believe it was still the early 1900s, when cowboys roamed the town. Step inside the Silver Dollar Bar in the Wort Hotel and you will find a long bar lined with silver coins, and a bluegrass band performing on certain nights.
Opposite the Town Square, signified by four arches made of elk antlers, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar also has a long bar with bar stools made of saddles and tables carved out of tree branches. The walls are covered with murals depicting western scenes, including bear hunts and wagon robberies, and old cowboy spurs, guns and coins on display. The menu includes elk burger, buffalo slides and chicken wings, which can be washed down with Million Dollar Cowboy craft beer, bourbon or whiskey.
The town is named after a trapper, Davey Jackson, who was one of the first to be lured to the area by the abundant wildlife in the early 1800s. Settlers began to move there in the 1880s, after the passing of the Homestead Act. The town was established in 1894 and soon became known for rodeos, playhouses and gambling. At the small historical museum you can see old black and white photos showing the town’s early d days and its d development, along with spinning wheels, old skis with elk-hide b boots and chairs m made of antlers.
Jackson was a p pretty progressive p place. In 1920, it e elected its first allw woman council, le leading it to be dubbed the “petticoat g government” by the New York Evening Herald. It was also the first town in the US to have a female town marshal, while the state in which it lies, Wyoming, was the first to have a female governor and first to give women the right to vote. Jackson Hole is named after the huge valley in which the town lies, between the Grand Teton mountain range to the west and Gros Ventres to the east.
About 20 minutes from town is Jackson Hole Mountain Resort at Teton Village, which is the major drawcard for Australian visitors. The resort is widely considered the ultimate ski destination for “real” skiers, known for its steep slopes, abundance of powder and backcountry terrain. The resort gets on average 12m of snow a year, more than anywhere else in the US. It has 1000ha of skiable terrain inside and another 1200ha of back-country skiing outside on forest service land.
I love the fact the resort has signs for “whoa zones” instead of slow zones in some areas. But while it is known for its extreme skiing, Jackson Hole is increasing its intermediate offerings to give it wider appeal by bombing parts of the mountain to change the gradient. The resort will also welcome a new quad chair in celebration of its 50th anniversary this season (2015/16), which will open up terrain previously only accessible by hiking. It also has a tram which leads to the longest continuous vertical in North America and can take 100 people from the base to the top of Rendezvous Mountain at 3185m every ten minutes.
Once at the top you can stop at Corbet’s Cabin, and warm up by the slow combustion fire while enjoying hot chocolate and waffles. The cabin has old skis hanging up out the front and its walls are decorated with historic black and white photos, old ski boots and postcards.
For lunch, you can head to the sit-down restaurant Couloir at mid-mountain Rendezvous Lodge and enjoy the view from the floor-to-ceiling windows while snacking on marinated duck wings. Or head to the Mangy Moose Saloon in Teton Village for soup, tacos, burritos, burgers and truffle fries. The character-filled eatery has a stuffed moose on the roof, and is decorated with old numberplates and snowshoes.
When it comes time for après, the sunny patio at the Balcony Bar, inside the Four Seasons Hotel, is the place to be by the 24m-long firewall.
The ski season starts in late November and ends earlier than many other US resort in early April, when elk begin to migrate.