Jackson Hole’s Fresh New Vibe

It’s no longer just for the advanced, plus it boasts a chic new hotel

BY JEN MURPHY — Winter 2019

t sounds unfathomable: Jackson Hole, Wyo., now ranks as the most accessible U.S. ski resort in the Rocky Mountains given hefty spending on its infrastructure. Major on-mountain investments have also made this longtime domain of boundary-pushing extreme skiers more attractive to all levels of skiers.

Getting there is easier thanks to a recent $30 million renovation and expansion of Jackson Hole Airport, where nonstop flights from 12 major U.S. cities will service the town of Jackson this ski season. And unlike many other U.S. ski towns, which require skiers to drive over icy mountain passes or along traffic-clogged highways, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is just 21 miles from the runway.

“The Big One,” as Jackson is known, hasn’t lost its edge, though. With the longest continuous vertical drop — 4,139 feet — of any ski resort in the country and 50 percent of its runs deemed “expert,” it’s still a proving ground for the world’s top skiers. But the decades-old myth that it’s an expert-only resort is fast fading. While the mountain still boasts plenty of adrenaline-inducing corners, such as infamous Corbet’s Couloir, a vertical chute that requires a jump-in entry before “mellowing” to an average 40-degree pitch, the rest of the ski experience has become more welcoming and skier-friendly. The resort has added new intermediate terrain and installed high-speed quads to access it. Plus, big investments in grooming mean slopes formerly the territory of advanced skiers are now consistent blue corduroy runs. Families and beginners get a new hangout this season with the debut of Solitude Station, a 12,000-square-foot lodge devoted to Mountain Sports School guests and reachable by a two-minute ride on the Sweetwater Gondola from the base. The lodge offers lessons for both adults and children ages 7 and up, plus equipment rentals and two cafeteria-style dining rooms exclusive to Mountain Sports School clients.

Jackson’s die-hard first-to-last chair crowd still fuels their mogul runs with frozen Clif bars, but casual skiers who take a more European approach to their ski days now have more options for gourmet eats on piste, including newly opened RPK3. Located slopeside in Teton Village, the restaurant’s menu offers fancy versions of cold-weather classics (think nachos, but topped with house-roasted wagyu beef). Skiers who like to keep light on their feet will appreciate the abundance of healthy options, including golden beet sliders with herbed goat cheese and roasted cauliflower tossed with lemon garlic tahini sauce.

Taupo Suite bedroom.

The Valles Suite at Caldera House.

The addition of Caldera House (from $2,500; calderahouse.com), an eight-suite hotel and alpine members club that debuted last summer, catapults Teton Village into the ranks of one of America’s most luxe ski-in/ski-out base areas. Located steps from Jackson’s iconic red tram, the new hotel is the passion project of hedge fund titan Wes Edens, a longtime Jackson devotee who has been known to drop into Corbet’s Couloir. While the hotel’s intimate size and over-the-top amenities (North America’s largest ski lockers and ski valet service) give it an air of exclusivity, Edens was adamant that Caldera House embrace and celebrate Jackson’s ski heritage and spirit. To that end, he has partnered with local legends, such as ski equipment guru Gov Carrigan, who runs the on-site ski shop. He also has revived Old Yellowstone Garage, a local institution that closed its Jackson location in 2007 but is again serving its wood-fired pizzas  and signature lasagna from a new space at Caldera House.

Pizza from Old Yellowstone Garage.

The hotel can set up ski lessons and guides, but it also encourages guests to see what makes Jackson special beyond the resort. Snowy photographic excursions in Grand Teton National Park and off-the-grid heli-ski adventures in Jackson’s vast backcountry serve as reminders of this region’s wild beauty.

The opening of Caldera House epitomizes this new chapter in Jackson and also underscores why the mountain town and ski resort are one of a kind: Few ski destinations in the country, let alone the world, so effortlessly combine sophistication and style with true adventure.

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