“The place has soul. Old cowboy country, get-after-it, snowboarding, good times soul.”
Bucket lists… They can be kind of generic: 101 things to do before you die, must see destinations, life goals to tick off… blah blah blah. Ask any skier or snowboarder their bucket list and it will most likely contain two destinations: Alaska and Jackson Hole in Wyoming. Jackson Hole is, and has always been very high on my ‘go to’ list. Whether it is the exposure that local snowboard legends Travis Rice and Bryan Iguchi have brought to the resort, the production company Brain Farm or Teton Gravity Research (both based in Jackson)… all I know is that creativity, cool things and even cooler people have come out of this little town in Wyoming USA. So we went to check it out…
Jackson Hole is a steep challenging mountain with an abundance of chutes, cliffs and exposed lines. 50% of their terrain is expert, 40% intermediate and only 10% beginner. If you look at a trail map, the easy blue runs are the linking roads and cat tracks. It has 4,139 vertical feet of terrain, 133 named trails and a top elevation of 10,450 ft or 1,924 meters (the tram takes you up 4,139 feet in only 9 minutes!). The place has soul. Old cowboy country, get-after-it, snowboarding, good times soul. Everyone from Ski Patrol to gallery owners, to locals showed us the best time. Although we didn’t get a powder snow re-fresh of snow in our 5 day stay, we did get after it in true Jackson style.
Nothing beats riding in a crew of friends and at Jackson Hole we were lucky enough to be have two local guides in the Dunstan brothers. From the tight, tree-lined ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride’ skiers left off the top of the gondola (access into the Casper bowl through Woolsey Woods), to ‘The Wiggles’ boarder-cross like berm turn tracks that appear in random spots across the mountain (getting gnarlier as the winter progresses, much like Mr Toad’s Wild Ride!), Jackson is full of these little delights. One you can’t miss is ‘Dick’s Ditch’, starting from under the Marmot chair, skiers right off the gondola. This black run is a natural halfpipe lined with side hits, pillows, bumps and berms that you can race down, pretty much all the way to the base of the mountain. A leg burner for sure, and a freestyle skier or snowboarder’s dream.
Another soulful thing about Jackson are all the secret huts hidden across the mountain. You’ll stumble across them without even noticing. You could spend a day trying to find them (hint: there’s one in Woolsey Woods – header image above!). Another spot to check out at the end of the day is the rock called ‘The Castle’, off the main Tram, skiers right and nestled under the Sublet quad lift. It’s a beautiful spot to catch the sunset, feed the grey jay birds or crack open a local beer to celebrate another day in bucket list paradise.
Unknown to me, Jackson Hole also has a pretty sick terrain park and halfpipe. True to the creativity that the town exudes (they have three art festivals and countless galleries), the park crew worked up what could only be described as an ice sculpture feature, terrain park: a castle whale-tail, a loop-de-loop-ski-through hulla-hoop to a spine, and an hold tram jib feature. There is also a Burton stash that compared to others I have ridden (The Remarkables in NZ and Morzine in France), is in REALLY good condition (the wood is often chipped and somewhat dangerous to ride). We had a blast playing in here on our gondola laps, en route to the halfpipe. Every terrain feature was impeccably shaped and maintained and the park guys were so friendly.
Jackson Hole is famous for it’s challenging terrain and abundance of technical skiing that is easily accessible inbounds of the resort (2,500 acres of rip-able terrain across two mountains). Go out of the resort’s backcountry gates and you have access to so much more. Keep a look out for Corbet’s couloir sitting directly under the tram. get involved if you are feeling Hollywood about your line choices or hit up the mushroom chutes or the crags, lookers right above the gondola summit. What I really loved about Jackson was how you could link your lines, join up runs, transfer sections or gap/pop off the cat tracks. I keep saying creativity, but this place draws it out of you. It is no wonder the most playful, creative riders have come out of this place (Travis Rice and Brian Iguchi to name a few). A gondola or tram run, top to bottom was fast, inspiring and varied. You could carve whatever crease you wanted on the slope or take multiple routes down finding new, un-ridden sections between the trees. The groomers were great fun too: wide, bowly and as fast or slow as you wanted to take them (the blue run Gros Venture was our favourite) .
It’s no surprise that Jackson Hole sits high on most ski and snowboard enthusiast’s bucket lists. Old world in style, rustic in charm and captivating in character, it epitomises the soul of skiing and snowboarding that is lost at other ski resorts. Although we just passed through for five short days, we really felt part of the local crew. From being invited into the ski patrol’s incredible hut at the top of Apres Vous (there is a mountain goat skeleton on the deck!), to après ski beers at Teton Thai, to spending time at Asymbol Galley in the town of Jackson, the locals were proud to show us their town and mountain. We were pretty devastated to have to leave.
Jackson Hole, you burnt a beautiful hole in our hearts, until next time… This is not goodbye!
A massive thank you to Wade and Mark Dunstan, Josh, Ashley, Aiden, Lucas, Turner, Jordan, Cliff, Austin, Carolin, Dave and all the crew that shared the stoke with us this past week. Thank you to Jackson Hole for having us.
To plan a trip to Jackson Hole, check out their website www.jacksonhole.com