Smack in the Middle of American Grandeur
A former fur-trading cow town at the foot of “America’s Alps,” Jackson has evolved into a delightful tourist town that borders on the cosmopolitan. The feared faux glamour they call “Aspenization” has so far been kept at bay, and the town’s plank boardwalks, old storefronts, and folksy small-town friendliness remain.
Drop by time-worn hangouts like Bubba’s Bar-B-Que (on Broadway) and the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar on the town square, where lots of local folk fill the house (and whose collection of Wild West Americana is worth a look-see). Jackson’s location in the deep, scenic 48-mile long Jackson Hole (“hole” is what settlers called a high, enclosed mountain valley) puts it within viewing range of some of America’s most astounding scenery and prolific wildlife, while the valley’s twisting Snake River, one of the country’s cleanest, is well known to anglers and rafters.
Summer finds a steady stream of park goers here to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone, but in winter all attention turns to the area’s three major ski resorts, particularly the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Twelve miles from Jackson, it has one of America’s greatest vertical drops (4,139 feet), some of its most varied terrain and longest runs, and a fearsome reputation for being extreme, cold, and tough.
The deranged find pleasure on the vaunted east face of 10,450-foot Rendezvous Mountain, but half the resort’s seventy-six named runs and 2,500 acres of awesomely skiable terrain are perfect for intermediates and even novices. Across the mountain, the snow quality at Grand Targhee (45 miles from Jackson, connected by shuttle bus) is regularly voted best in the nation, with 500 inches of powder falling annually – a full 15 feet more than Jackson Hole.
On a spectacular expanse of 25,000 acres set aside by the government in 1912, the National Elk Refuge is the winter home for thousands of migrating elk, the largest herd in North America. You’ll first start to hear them bugle in the fall during mating season, and from mid-December through March you can get up-close glimpses of them via a horse-drawn sleigh ride offered by the Fish and Wildlife Service in Jackson Hole.
If you stay in any of the elegant log cabins scattered about the 1,000-acre grounds of the Spring Creek Ranch, the only thing that can compete with the view is the ranch’s acclaimed restaurant, The Granary, whose award-winning menu (think elk medallions and buffalo tenderloin) is especially perfect when the outdoor deck is open during warm weather.